This is a review of Brevity by Katelin Farnsworth.
Brevity is an online journal of creative non-fiction, featuring writers both established and emerging. Straight away, I’m excited. I’m excited because creative non-fiction can be bold, imaginative, funny, clever and engaging. There isn’t enough of it. I’d like to see more as it breaks down walls. It brings people together. There’s a moment where you stop, take a breath, feel the story move, shift and get inside. Sometimes it feels like your story being told. I believe good non-fiction should make you feel this way. It should tear you apart just a little bit.
Brevity does not disappoint.
The latest edition (Issue 48) has variety. I struggle when picking what to read first. The titles are amazing: I Remain Very Sorry For What I Did To The Little Black Kitten and Liner Notes for the Debut Album From the Band We Never Formed, so I know I’m in for a treat. The pieces are fairly short at 750 words or less. This is concise writing, designed to pack a punch.
I start with Falling by Margo Barnes.
‘He was a smart-mouthed, cocky little boy, that fall they entered the fourth grade. She was shy, awkward, with the early beginnings of adolescent acne and a jumble of overlapping teeth still three years from braces. She had never liked a boy before.'
This is a piece I relate to, in the relaying of those small moments in childhood, the pain of your first crush, the confusion and angst. Barnes writes beautifully. The language is rich, full and tender. I read it twice.
Jenny Boully’s I Remain Very Sorry For What I Did To The Little Black Kitten gets to me. Reading it is tough. It’s a sincere and telling piece, subtle in its heartache. There are a few lines that give me goosebumps:
‘I remain very sorry for what I did to that cat, and although I entertained thoughts that someone found her and treated her nicely until she got old, I know that no one did.’
‘Last night, the catch of grief came hard and quick. It stung my bones. My three-year-old daughter walked up to me—we had not been talking about cats—and said that little cats like milk, they like to lick it from their little milk bowls.’
‘The Heart As A Torn Muscle’ by Randon Billings Noble takes an old age problem – the longing to be with someone who isn’t your partner, and spins it on it on its head. It’s captivating and refreshing, without taking itself too seriously (which it easily could have). It’s written as a ‘how to’ and is very clever. Here’s one of its gems:
‘No horoscopes. No tarot cards or tea leaves. If you must, you may steep yourself in stories of passion and price. Years from now you can indulge in what-ifs. But for now, right now, put your hand to your chest and feel what beats. The only muscle you can’t live without needs to stay whole.’
Landlines by Lisa Nikolidakis makes for heavier reading. It’s powerful, uncomfortable stuff. The story recounts a young girl’s experience receiving dirty phone calls. It hints at a lot, and uses innocent details to balance the harshness of what’s happening. The last line is a kicker.
‘I was too young to think violation, to think stalker, so I sat there, at once scared and empty, the ringing phone on my bed like Stevie reaching out his dirty, familiar hand to fondle my thigh.’
After reading it, I need a moment to recompose. It’s a chilling piece that uses contrast incredibly well.
Jen Palmares Meadow’s Imprint is one of those pieces that make you say WOW out loud. I loved it. It deals with the early months of motherhood, the primal and animalistic nature of it. I’m not a mother but I believe this is essential reading. It’s powerful, raw and real.
‘“Don’t eat your baby.” She adopts this mantra. “Don’t eat your baby,” she sings. “Don’t eat your baby.” And even as she whispers of love, she sings because she just can’t handle all the wonder, all the beauty. She sings until her song is almost growl, her embrace almost smother. She knows it’s only hormones, Oxytocin sending messages to her mammary glands to let down, messages concurrently telling her body that she and this creature must imprint.’
Brevity gives another perspective on non-fiction writing. It allows you to explore, to interpret, to learn, and to feel things you may never have felt. The website is well put together, the layout simple and easy to navigate, and it is a genuine pleasure to read every one of the pieces.
I’d also like to point out the fantastic photographs by Laura J Frantz. Frantz’s images accompany the stories however they are stories in their own right. They’re smart, and telling, and leave a lot to the imagination. Brevity is clever and does exactly what it sets out to do. It delivers sharp, tight writing in very few words.
Please go check it out for yourself. You’ll find something that speaks to you. I promise.
Katelin Farnsworth is a writer from Melbourne. She’s been published by the lovely folks over at Voiceworks, Tincture, and Spineless Wonders, amongst others. Katelin is currently working on her first novel. She tweets @ktnworth.
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