Paragraph Review- The Laws of Average by Trevor Dodge

“And I should be happy now the grin is back, right? It should remind me that the core of him is still there, despite what the shell of him looks or smells like. Well I am not happy. Now that the grin is back I am reminded of being me more and more, while feeling like you less and less. And I’m not sure who to blame for any of this. I see you in my mailbox, on my computer screen, in once-sacred places and thoughts I used to visit because I thought they were truly sacred. I’m wearing your clothes, brushing your hair, shaving your legs. I am becoming un-Real.” ~P207, The Laws of Average by Trevor Dodge.

I discovered Trevor Dodge when I took one of his workshops at the Clackamas Community College’s Compose Writing Conference this year. He was teaching flash fiction that day, and I was inspired by his passion, inspiration, and obvious skill.

tla coverWhen his book of 60 flash fictions, The Laws of Average, came out, I grabbed a copy and have been savoring it ever since. I have almost finished the book, but wanted to do a paragraph review of it, so I skipped ahead to a page and story I hadn’t read yet, and landed on the above passage.

The conversational tone struck me immediately, like the narrator is having a drink with the reader and lamenting her (I’m assuming, here) relationship woes, maybe a marriage that has hit a rut. I have a distinct visual in my head of a dark wooden bar, and two crossed legs, the top one bouncing up and down as the narrator speaks, high heels dark and classy at the end of shapely calves. I get nothing but that, though. Who is the narrator ultimately addressing? Another woman? The man with the rediscovered grin? Herself? There is a sense of borderline obsession toward the end of the paragraph- an obsession of becoming someone else, disappearing into another’s identity.

I feel the crux of this paragraph is the line, “And I’m not sure who to blame for any of this.” That’s where the direction of the conversation gets more pointed, where the narrator includes “you” and “your” with “I” and “me.” The paragraph becomes almost accusatory at this point, the narrator has felt intruded upon by this, “you,” and seems to be trying to decide whether or not to blame “you” for the sudden lack of sacred places. In fact, the only thing the narrator seems sure of in this paragraph is that she is unhappy, and the acts that she is doing to become un-Real.

I also like the use of the words “core” and “shell” combined with “looks” and “smells.” I got a definite sensory reaction to those words, even a faint smell of ocean air and dead fish. The paragraph is emotionally driven, and the narrator seems to be someone who thinks with her heart.

Dodge does a great job of using the conversational tone to build tension in this paragraph, and it has me wondering about the rest of the story. I already feel like I’m in the narrator’s head, I can’t wait to find out the context for her thoughts.

trevor_mangaTrevor Dodge will be reading at our show on Saturday at Glyph Café and Arts Space in downtown Portland, Oregon, and will have copies of The Laws of Average available for purchase.

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