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Outside Recommendations

Short Story Recommendation, Week of 5.18.2020

Oscilloscope’s primary mission is to increase the readership of literary short fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, and visual art–especially focusing on the absurd. At the present moment, too many talented creatives go underpaid, unpaid, or underappreciated due to an oversaturation of work versus the readership base.

In reality, the problem is a quite limited readership base in an age of endless entertainment (or Infinite Jest, as David Foster Wallace deemed it). Although the life of the creative has never been easy (Melville’s Moby Dick did initially go out of print after a few years, after all), people tend to enjoy art when they make time for it.

We’re going to work on this issue internally, of course. To promote Oscilloscope and aim to develop a dedicated readership base. We will do so by paying our writers and creatives (and hopefully we can increase the remuneration in the future), by providing feedback to submissions as often as possible so as to provide some context and helpful hints for improvement (we are writers ourselves, after all and know how empty the void of submission often feels), and to also attempt to work this problem externally; to highlight literary magazines and works outside of Oscilloscope Lit.

The above is a somewhat rambling way to introduce the third in this new series of blog posts highlighting quality or exceptional work found in other’s literary magazines.

Extraordinary Miraculous by Molly Gutman (One Story)

This week we are highlighting the short story Extraordinary, Miraculous, in One Story. The author of Extraordinary, Miraculous is Molly Gutman, who apparently hails from Arkansas and is finishing up her Ph.D, at University of Wisconson.

I must admit I was hesitant about recommending this short story, for reasons that have nothing to do with the story itself (which is brilliant). The primary reason for my trepidation is that you can’t read One Story online (other than a summary and introduction) without being a subscriber. The secondary reason is that One Story is (as far as lit magazines go) a really large and successful lit mag, and us being a small fry, I wanted to focus on highlighting work in slightly more obscure venues. Finally, I just switched from being a Kindle subscriber to a print subscriber of One Story, and now I can’t even access Gutman’s story, and I thus need to go on memory from a month ago (which makes it tough to review, especially considering the “unique” character names in this story).

(And yet, no story has stuck with me over the last month or so like Extraordinary Miraculous, so I feel compelled to highlight it all the same.)

(spoiler alerts)

Extraordinary Miraculous is the perfect tonic for these times. There is an innocence to the tale that was really refreshing (especially as I personally continue to write one miserable short story after another, even when I set out not to).

It’s not that the world of Extraordinary Miraculous is not violent; like our own world it’s a dangerous place. But there is a spirit in the voice (the narrator is subtly hilarious) and there is a sophisticated yet wide-eyed wonder that fills the story and interjects it, (yes), with life.

The whole time I read this short story I kept thinking of the song Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, with its closing line of “How strange it is to be anything at all.” Because it is–it’s beyond weird that there’s life on this planet and that anything exists on it, and the form we take, and all our vague dreams and ambitions (and the same goes for the tiniest microbe). For that matter, it’s so beyond bizarre that there is a universe at all, particularly one so infinite. Extraordinary Miraculous doesn’t forget the wonder, the very “strangeness,” of our existence. This is a subtle work that whispers where other works shout, and is so much the stronger for it.

Without going too much into the story itself, Extraordinary Miraculous is set in the Pleistocene around the dawn of our fist evolutionary ancestors. It’s a family story at heart, only this family is befuddled (like many families are) by a “black sheep;” only in this instance it’s a child with evolutionary features not like parents or siblings.

Written with a sense of humor, great clarity, and a refreshing sense of wonder and imagination, I can’t recommend Extraordinary Miraculous enough.

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