An exploration by Shelby Ellis
I came upon the above piece while googling “twitter fiction.” The blog, Nanoism.net, is a wonderful source for this type of new media. The main idea of the piece is, in my interpretation, the difficulty of being intimate with a new person after the end of a relationship. The author, Chuck Von Norheim, begins the piece with “He leaves before she wakes.” This suggests the typical setting of a one-night-stand, a sexual encounter supposedly devoid of emotion, often employed by non-committal personalities. The male subject, however, is revealed to be much more than just a male seeking physical satisfaction. The next sentence, “His last girlfriend blushed when they made love,” shows sentimentality in the man. He is in the physical presence of one woman, but thinking about his ex-girlfriend, who he does not refer to as his “ex,” but his “last.” This diction could merely suggest that she was his most recent love, or that she will be the final love of his life. Either way, he is reminded of the intimate details of her being. The piece ends with “Now the other beds seem cold.” The male character refers to other women as “other beds,” showing a detachment; the women are not even human in his mind, merely objects. “Cold” could mean either emotionally distant, or literally of a low temperature, lacking the closeness of romantic intimacy. The piece does not say why the relationship ended. His last girlfriend may have died, or left him for another, or maybe just decided it was not a good relationship; perhaps he was having affairs before or he was callous to her. This ambiguity is especially intriguing because it is impossible to know whether or not, as a reader, I should feel sympathy for the man in the piece. (http://nanoism.net/stories/490/)
This piece is successful in many ways, my favorite of which is the ambiguity which is employed with the lack of detail and the factual tone. As was mentioned, the reader does not know what to feel for the male character in the piece. On one hand, the choice of the word “now” in the final sentence makes me feel as though the affairs have been present in this man’s life before, possibly during, and after his relationship with the last girlfriend. My interpretation is that the man is a nymphomaniac who has sex with women as a compulsion rather than for pleasure. When he had love in his life, his affairs were probably less frequent. As most know, making love is usually most satisfying when one is actually in love. For some reason, the relationship ended, and now he is back into the mindless habit of sex, but still mentally transfixed on his love for his ex. Another reader might interpret the piece entirely differently. Perhaps he was in a loving relationship, the woman, for some reason, passed away, and now he is trying to use sex to numb the pain. This is a common theme among grief-stricken individuals. There are numerous other available ways to interpret the piece, which is a quality which makes it highly effective.
My favorite sentence in the piece is the middle one: “His last girlfriend blushed when they made love.” It has a completely different tone from the other sentences, and yet it ties them together flawlessly. It gives us a rare glimpse into the personality of the ex-girlfriend; she is shy in intimate situations. It also reveals a lot about the male character, that of all the sights and sensations of making love, he remembers most vividly and fondly the reddening of his partner’s face. It is a highly sentimental image, despite any obvious use of tone. The author maintains a matter-of-fact tone throughout the short piece. This happened, he thought about this, and he feels this. There is hardly a word that strikes me as a definite form of emotion, but the subtlety of diction in this sentence, such as using “made love” instead of “had sex,” is what gives it such power. It explains the first sentence more clearly, why the man would leave, while setting up for the final sentence, why the other beds/women feel cold.
I feel that the most useful lesson from this piece is ambiguity. The piece is incredibly short, 140 characters or less, and yet there are so many different stories to be found within it. The vagueness of tone and diction make the piece more effective than if I could read it and know exactly the intent and plot of it. As an aspiring writer of micro-fiction, I think that I will benefit from reading Nanoism.net. While there are many incredible examples of micro-fiction, like the one above, there are also some less-effective pieces to compare and contrast.