The Definition of Insanity 2
A few weeks ago, I submitted the short story below to a digital publication that provides feedback on submissions. Though stylized, it is entirely autobiographical.
A few months ago, I submitted the short story below to a digital publication that provides feedback on submissions. Though stylized, it is entirely autobiographical. One might even say therapeutic, as in the wake of a major sentimental disappointment, I was trying to make light and sense of the succession of events known to me as “my life.” It was entitled “The Definition of Insanity,” from Albert Einstein’s quote that it is: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
The Definition of Insanity
I was in love with Nobuko. We were 9. On the last day of school, we had a mini-prom and while we were slow dancing I told her I loved her. She turned on her heels and went to the buffet. Thinking that she hadn’t heard me, I went over to her and repeated those three words. She turned on her heels and went through the door, almost running, skipping.
I was in love with Michelle. We were 13. I wrote her love letters in a notebook and gave it to her. She returned it a week later with a letter of her own. It wasn’t a love letter. She didn’t really address that topic, instead giving me more details about her life, her friends and yes, the boys that she cared about. One of them could do one hundred push-ups. Wasn’t that amazing? She found muscular boys sexy. I wrote another letter about my feelings. She replied much in the same vein. Going back and forth all year long, three notebooks were filled.
I was in love with Chloe. We were 18. I wrote love poems for her. Sexually explicit, abstractly constructed love poems. After a few months, I had half a notebook worth of poems and gave that to her. She liked art and poetry, generally, and indeed when she returned the notebook, one day at the end of class, she said that she liked my poems. We were alone in a stairwell, she looked at me with eyes both sweet and pitying, kissed me on the cheek, and left.
I was in love with Laura. We were 25, 26. I told Laura that I loved her while we were making love for the second time. She said it back a few weeks later. We were happy for a while. I wrote short stories that no one would publish. I tried writing better ones. Recently, at 32, I told her that sure, I wanted to have children with her, but that I also wanted to have a career as a writer. I was really hoping to start publishing short stories, before taking the next step in life.
Laura has since left me for another man. He is an older, successful writer. She is expecting a child.
Which she is. On my end, I submitted the story, waited, then received the following feedback:
Dear Antoine Bargel,
Thank you for submitting to us. We have decided not to publish your piece, “The Definition of Insanity”. Some reader comments:
I appreciate the story being the escalation. I can get some indication of the narrator from what they say. They general thrust of the piece fits well with the title. However the ending might be a bit too open. Perhaps I want to be sure that this person is unlucky in love for a reason: not wanting children doesn’t really relate to the first three younger attempts at romance.
Interesting take on “a writer’s woes” … I actually liked it a lot, but the ending wasn’t satisfying. I would have liked something much more punchy.
I liked most of this, but I feel that it needs a more tragic type of ending to fit the theme of the piece. It seemed to be working up to something more final.
I liked the escalation, but I don’t think it ended with a big enough bang. I would have liked to see an extension further into his life, with perhaps more drama articulated in the same style that relates even more strongly to the themes already introduced.
This has potential to be a really nicely constructed piece, but I’m not sure the execution is on point. I would have liked to have had an ending with more punch. It kind of falls flat where it was built up for a much better end, if that makes sense. I like the idea very much, but needs a more thoughtful resolve.
Best of luck, and please feel free to submit to us again in the future.
Subsequently, I thought hard and long about the importance of short stories in my life, the relationship of my stories with reality, and endings, and in a moment of logical and thoughtful resolve, committed suicide.
But I didn’t. Instead, I submitted this new story and waited.
Antoine Bargel is a bilingual and ephemeral writer and translator of poetry and fiction in, from, and to English and French. More on his work at www.antoinebargel.com.
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