Because We’re Not Good: “East of Eden”, a Book Review


We all have those pieces of art–be they movies, books, music, what have you–that upon first exposure we fall in love. We turn the last page or exit the theater or concert hall certain that this will surely be added to our list of favorites and long-held companions. Yet, how many times do we say this and a year or two down the road someone mentions that very piece of art and we find ourselves thinking, “oh yeah, I did read that, didn’t I?” or “I had forgotten how much I loved that album!”

So often we get swept away in the immediate experience of something skipping upon the waters of our soul, leaving little ripples and echoes dancing in its wake. But these dimples and dapples merely play on the surface for a time, returning once more to their source, leaving the waters ultimately undisturbed–the liquid plane unbroken; the deepest depths untouched.

There are other times, however, that we encounter a piece of art–or rather, it encounters us–and we are changed. It transcends mere rankings of “favorites” and “Top 10s” and weaves itself into our fibers. We do not critique and assess it, so much as it sizes and weighs us. The surface tension is broken and we are plunged beneath, staring humanity’s unvarnished truths in the face. And in so doing our own humanity is enlarged, a spaciousness expands in our souls, and we feel more human–even as our foundations are shaken.

John Steinbeck’s 1952 magnum opus, East of Eden, is just this kind of piece of art. It’s the kind of book people say they will read “someday”, only to read it and wish “someday” had come a lot sooner. So if you haven’t read it. Do so. Start today.

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Buechner: Fiction as Self-Revelation [QUOTE]


If writers write not just with paper and ink or a word processor but with their own life’s blood, then I think something like [our own words being just as much to us as from us] is perhaps always the case. A book you write out of the depths of who you are, like a dream you dream out of those same depths, is entirely your own creation. All the words your characters speak are words that you alone have put into their mouths, just as every situation they become involved in is one that you alone have concocted for them. But it seems to me nonetheless that a book you write, like a dream you dream, can have more healing and truth and wisdom in it at least for yourself than you feel in any way responsible for.

–Frederick Buechner,Telling Secrets

Read Austin Ricketts’ Short Story “The Quiche”


schrott-austin-birdsOccasional contributor to the site (and full-time stud), Austin Ricketts, has a new short story that he has published in the online literary magazine, The Momongahela Review. This is the first fiction piece of his I’ve read in a long time, and… wow, it’s really good (especially the last half).

And I don’t say that lightly. Really. Especially after my own recent forays into fiction, part of my pride doesn’t like when I admire so highly a work in a similar field in which I create, done by someone I know.

It’s a story about time, relationships, memory, and how those things change us; it’s beautiful, sensual, and intellectual. It starts on page 70 of the journal (and the pdf). At least peruse the other pieces of the journal, as there are also some beautiful pieces of poetry and other prose pieces (that admittedly, I haven’t read yet).

You can download the pdf at the site, or read the full issue on Issu. All for free.

Did you catch that? Free. Good. Writing. You have absolutely nothing to lose by at least downloading and looking around.

Check it out: http://monreview.com
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The Way Out: a modern re-telling of Exodus (a scene) | {story#19}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. I’m usually very insistent that a piece should be able to stand on its own with no explanation, but this being a random scene from a play, I’ll tell you what you need to know. This is from an original play called “The Way Out”. It’s a modern re-telling of the biblical Exodus. “Christopher” is the Moses in this story, “Evan” is his brother Aaron, and “Joshua” is Yahweh. Even grew up a slave in the nation and Chris was raised in the King’s house. After killing a man, Chris was exiled and met his wife, before returning to help set these slaves free. Read more about StoryADay & follow here.
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CHRISTOPHER

You have no idea what sort of state I was in back then! Do you know what it’s like to kill a man? To feel the part of you that awakens after watching the eyes of a man grow dim beneath the weight of your own anger? Your own hands? I was beside myself! I couldn’t look at my own reflection for a month! I had no idea who I was anymore. Heck, I still don’t even know half the time. There is no way you could have any idea what that time was like!

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Atheist: A Biography | {story#18}


This is an original fiction piece posted for StoryADay September. It’s a long one, so for your convenience, you can also read this story in PDFKindle, or EPUB formats. Read more about StoryADay & follow here.
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Luke was born into a moderately religious household. His family spent each Sunday morning rushing around the house amid a flurry of curses and arguments trying to get everyone ready for the Sunday School and service at the large Baptist church down the street. When Luke was older, he also went to the Wednesday night youth group this church had. But outside of that, religion wasn’t any great percentage of his day-to-day life. His parents never prayed before meals, there was no religious paraphernalia around the house, and the most frequent invocation of God was in front of the phrase “damn it”.

There was one time, though, that for some reason, Luke remembered his entire life. During one period when he was about 6 or 7, when his parents were fighting a lot, Luke found himself needing his father for something shortly after a particularly loud argument had concluded. His mother was in the washroom, loudly banging the doors to the washer and dryer as she changed loads. Luke walked into his parent’s bedroom and found his father on his knees beside the bed, knuckles clasped as if he would die should he let go, muttering quiet pleas within breaths taken between violent sobs. Luke stood there wordless for about 30 seconds watching this, until his presence was felt by his father. His father looked up and saw Luke staring at him with wide eyes.
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Four Courts on the Liffey | {story#17}


This is an original fiction piece posted for StoryADay September. It was written a long time ago, and since then, a much longer and more mature version has been written. It is based on Liam O’Flaherty’s 1923 short story “The Sniper”. Read more about StoryADay & follow here.
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The Republican Sniper started across the street to his bounty, curious of its identity.  As he dashed across the street, a hail of machine gun fire came from a nearby roof and followed close behind him.  He dodged it effortlessly, and dove beside the kill which he called his own.  He looked at the body of the other sniper and recalled the recent events of that night which had led to that moment.  Their waltz was now over, and he had won.  Curious of his identity, he knelt down next to the Free State sniper’s body, and peered over his shoulder and stared into the open eyes of his dead brother.

*     *     *

(Earlier that night)

Dublin was dark- enveloped and engulfed in the shadow of Civil War, waiting for the long June dusk to wither down to darkness. It was like a sleeping giant, waiting for either morning or liberation from the war to come before it awoke.  One lone vehicle was out that night, traveling across the bridge that went over the Liffey.  Continuously and bravely it advanced, almost wanting to be attacked.  This vehicle was safe, though, its steel walls had been resisting bullets all day, keeping its driver and passengers safe from the Republican gunfire. It was on rendezvous to meet an informer, but its driver’s thoughts were elsewhere.
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The Portrait of the Artist as a Never Ending Series of Name-puns (a poem) | {story#16}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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I
She stands alone,
lost in a process she only knows;
the reflection staring back in silent contemplation
of a piece going “God knows where”.

The streets lie lifeless in her eyes;
those eyes hidden by a façade of powder and colour,
yet somehow come through.

The mousy bed face wins again.

It wins the hearts of those around her,
a victory bitter in her mouth as unintentioned
as the betrayal of a love

far less worthy than she.
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Communion | {story#15}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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You ever tried to get your cry on, only to move your mouth and stretch you lips and squint your eyes, and squeeze your body, only to have nothing come out? Ever feel the cold concrete ground against your still head, only to imagine how it would feel to come against it with force? To watch the gray grow increasingly red with your own blood? The blood just came out of her in spurts. She wouldn’t die. She wouldn’t die. Possessed by Beelzebub, she worships the wheel, the wheel she worships. She’s a witch, I tell you–a witch. She gave the boy a poisoned orange and snatched it away from him. She wants him to die. I did it for him. I did it for him. I love him. The boy, I love. She says she loves me. She loves me not. She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me. How did she keep walking? Like Jesus on water, except the water was red and all over her she walked and walked. We worship the pig, not the wheel, so Jesus loves us. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. The boy, he loves me. He stared at me with wide eyes. I thought he would cry in joy, cry in surprise, cry in freedom, but he just sat. Still. Silent. Mouth-opened. Tears building and building, never breaking the ridge to fall down his cheek. He began shaking. I was trying to cut her mother-fucking head off, but it just wouldn’t go! I told him, I’m doing this for you, buddy! I’m doing this for you! His shaking body told me thank you in response. They kept telling me She wants to kill the boy! She wants to kill the boy! You need to kill her kill her kill her! But the witch inside her kept her alive. Even when I walked to her sister’s house, she followed me–still walking!–like a monster and followed me, the blood falling out of her in sheets–laughing at me, staring at me, touching me and punching me. My hands were slippery and then became sticky, like honey. Sweet honey. I saw a deer outside my window last night. It was beautiful. Through the cut concrete I stared, and stared, for years and years. The deer moved so slowly around the fence. It’s eyes were green. Envy. Jealousy. It wanted to be me, to be inside of me. I won’t let it. It can’t be inside me and fuck me. As I laid on her back bringing down the judgment, I remembered all the times she was on top of me, touching me, breathing in my ear. Killing me. She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me? When I was older I’d punch her. She’d punch back. We’d wrestle and wrestle and I knew she liked it. To feel a touch. To feel something. My cousin was shot last week and is now with Jesus. Jesus loves me, this I know. I worship the pig. She worships the wheel. The boy, I love him. I saved him. I’ll beat this, I will. I’ll go to the Judge and tell him and he will let me free, and give me the boy. And he will be mine. But no, they are corrupt. They know I will conquer them and so they will keep me in here. But I will be freed as on angel’s wings. Jesus wouldn’t do it. I will. I’ve seen the kingdoms of the world, and I can have them all. They’ll give me the boy. And he will be free. He will live. He will prosper. He will love. He will be loved. I love him. I love him not. I love him. I love him not. I love.

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Creative Commons License
This work by Paul Burkhart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Slay the Dragon, Save the Princess | {story#14}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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She turned from our star, cutting short the conversation. I tried to reconnect several times, but she wouldn’t return to my frequency.

Is it really over? Did she really just break up with me?

I just stood there in my backyard, in silence, still sweaty from the pacing I had done for the past two hours on this most-stressful of phone calls. The long distance had been tough, to be sure, but surely she didn’t think that this one year we’d have to spend apart was worth ending things over, did she? I know this year had been hard with her Master’s program, but I generally found Jules to be so calm, steady, and at ease. I didn’t think anything could get to her. It seems I was wrong.
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Story Fail (a limerick) | {story#13}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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There once was a writer named Paul
who took on an order so tall:
___to write a story each day,
___and neglect work and play.
But today, he must rest from it all.

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Creative Commons License
This work by Paul Burkhart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Propriety is the Spice of Life, pt. 1 | {story#12}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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“I tell you what, I never could see what drew you to a boy like that!” She brought the fly swatter down as if upon the head of Tom.

“Mom! He’s a good man!” Clinching her fists, Sarah noticed that she gave a little stomp with her right foot to punctuate this statement. She felt like a caricature, but she didn’t care. This was important–important enough for dramatics.

“I should hope so! He thinks he can just waltz right in here and sweep my daughter away? I’ll let him know he’s got another thing comin’!” Another fly bit the dust.
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I had a conversation with you yesterday | {story#11}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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I had a conversation with you yesterday. I know, I know, it’s not fair to hold you to something you don’t remember–but I did. I promise. You were sitting in your chair, and I in mine. You looked up at me from your magazine (or newspaper, was it?) and said, “I do declare!”

“What is it that you might declare?”, I declared back in your direction.
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Awash | {story10}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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The plates shift in the sink, startling her out of her daydream. Her thoughts had lingered away into thoughts of autumns gone by. She resumes her circular repetition, her hands enjoying the warmth of the water as a cold body enjoys the comfort of bed. The suds feel like velvet across her skin, and as she scratches an itch on her face, it leaves a little tuft of bubbles on her cheek. She feels the pops and tingles, causing her to leave them there for a moment longer than she normally would.

The tomato sauce wipes cleanly from the plate, making this an act of leisure and not a chore. The morning stresses of dressing kids follow the tomato sauce down the drain, leaving only a porcelain plate in porcelain hands. She imagines her heart as porcelain as well.

Porcelain? Yes. Broken? No.
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Travis the Traveling Tree (a children’s story) | {story9}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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Travis woke up. The world was sideways. He wasn’t used to seeing things this way, and it startled him greatly. He eventually realized that he was lying on his side–a position he was not used to. Struggling under his massive weight, he eventually stood himself up (but not without some damage).

Looking around, he saw his brothers and sister and mother and father all on the ground as well. The wind must have knocked them all down at once. He thought to himself, “This might be my chance to finally get away; to see the world and do what I want. I’ll find a new home for my roots” So he set off.
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Art Collector | {story#8}


This is an original fiction piece written for StoryADay September. Read more & follow here.
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         As usual, I wake up three minutes before my alarm goes off. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling, noticing for the first time a crack in the paint above our bed. I wonder how long it would take for the crack to grow enough that a chip of paint would fall in my mouth as I slept. I recall that vague idea we all hear growing up about the average human eating such-and-such number of spiders in their lifetime, and the only conclusions us laypersons ever arrived at to explain this is that they must crawl into our mouths while we slept. This is disconcerting to some, but I’ve never really found much of a problem with it. We let so many other things inside of us, “spiders” is perhaps the least illogical of them all. Hot water strained through the ground, dried, and roasted seeds of an otherwise tasty berry? Omelets made with what are more or less the products of daily chicken periods? The squashed and processed remains of a peanut and a grape spread on dry-heated, germ-infused, ground-up wheat plants? Gummi Bears? Wives?
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