Over at Narrative Magazine, Adam O’Fallon Price has won the inaugural iStory prize for “Objects of Desire.” The magazine’s guidelines give an intriguing definition: “An iStory is a short, dramatic narrative, fiction or nonfiction, up to 150 words long. We are particularly interested in works that give readers a strong sense of having read a full and complete story in a brief space.”
Full and complete stories are hard to manage in 5,000 words, let alone 150. And yet “Objects of Desire” does, indeed–across the six sentences that comprise its two paragraphs–provide vivid characters, internal conflict manifested in external action, and the kind of lyrical ending that satisfies on a narrative level even as it makes a thematic point about irresolution. The story provides its own synopsis (“He wanted her, she wanted the bird, there you had it”), but it’s a rueful and knowing oversimplification.
Everything is delivered in rich, lovely prose. Ann Beattie, who judged the contest, writes, “You have to read the whole story as if you’re the cinematographer.” She’s right to draw attention to the way the piece wraps its narrative in imagery that is arresting at first glance, and resonant at second. A magnet on my fridge quotes Chekhov: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” And here’s Price’s narrator on the memory of a robbery: “Last night the storefront glass on the ground around him had twinkled with merry, sinister approval at his boldness.” Guess how that turns out.
“Objects of Desire” is also one of Narrative‘s Staff Picks for 2014. Access to the full story requires registration, but it’s free and worth it.
Find Adam O’Fallon Price’s website here.
Macaw picture is by Alison Berto.