Anhedonia, Here I Come by Colin Barrett, 2016
The magic trick:
Starting the story with precise and arresting exposition
Some stories grab the reader’s interest immediately by starting the action in the first paragraph. Others use a particularly excellent first sentence to do the trick.
“Anhedonia, Here I Come” does neither. The narrative takes quite awhile to show itself at all, actually. But the reader is hooked very quickly. How then?
Description. Remarkable description. The protagonist, Bobby Tallis, comes to life in a vivid exposition that begins the story. It would seem a bit of a risk – beginning the story with such a standard “there was a guy and this is where he lived and this is what he looked like and this is how he spent his time” format. But that’s charmingly old-school in a way, one, and, two, the writing in this section is simply outstanding. You feel like you know this guy. And that’s quite a trick on Barrett’s part.
He lived in a dilapidated apartment block on the south-side inner city, a block so populated with retirees and pensioners that visitors—of which Bobby had absolutely none—often mistook it for a state retirement home. Bobby was certain he was the only resident under the age of sixty. The block’s corridors—the sour-cream walls lit by low-wattage sconces downy with dust, the furred, blue, perpetually damp carpeting in which shoe-print impressions dolefully lingered—evoked for Bobby a budget version of the afterlife. It was, at least, a peaceful place, no noise but the late-night dysphagic groans of the elevator’s recurringly jammed doors.
Bobby walked six miles every day. He did so because a lengthy walk helped oxygenate the creative capacities as well as preëmptively dispel the oppressive sense of cabin fever that would consume him if he did not regularly remove himself from the tiny tomb of his one-bedroom apartment. Also, there was a shopping-center parking lot three miles from his apartment block where he bought weed from a schoolgirl on a near-daily basis.
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