This Is A Story About My Friend George, The Toy Inventor by Grace Paley, 1977
The magic trick:
Outlining a complete idea in only nine paragraphs
Paley was renowned nearly as much for her poetry as her prose, so it isn’t surprising to see her succeed at this – a kind of mashup of poem and short story. It is a quick hitter, but the picture and message are very clear.
We meet George, who is as advertised: a toy inventor. He fails to invent an improved pinball machine – not because his idea wasn’t brilliant, but perhaps because his idea wasn’t necessary. It’s an interesting commentary about the notion of invention, ambition and relative success. All in nine paragraphs. And that’s quite a trick on Paley’s part.
(Also, Then, to his sorrow, he added understanding and amazement. is one of my favorite sentences.)
He installed them in the boys’ attic room. The family played and investigated them for several weeks. Then, to his sorrow, he added understanding and amazement.
How could he have believed that he was the one to improve the pinball machine, that old invention of cumulative complication. He had offered only a small innovation.