The following is in response to Jayne Anne Phillips‘ “Sweethearts.”
This piece does not have a lot of tension; there were several places throughout to piece where I thought there was going to be some conflict, but besides the hint of tension at the end, there isn’t much going on. Nothing happens while they are at the theatre on Friday except that they watch everyone leaving. Sunday is even dryer because these “afternoons the theater was deserted.” I’m not sure what to make of this Mr. Penny or why he decided to wrap his arm around the two of them, but it doesn’t bring up some questions at the end that creates some unresolved tension. I don’t think that this is necessarily a bad thing—the lack of tension in this piece—for it seems to be held together more by Phillips’ use of language and images.
I love the way the language in this piece of flash prose adds complexity to her style. They aren’t just under the light of the projector but “an aura of light from the projection booth curved across our shoulders”; the people in the corner of the room aren’t just talking but emitting “sacred grunts”; creepy Mr. Penny didn’t just put his arm around them, he “wrapped us in old tobacco.” These small differences make the piece fun to read.
I also enjoyed the detail in describing Mrs. Causton—her fat buttered fingers, the swish of her thighs, the Kleenex she squeezes. The images painted here keeps you interested in the story, gives you something to hold on to.