COMMUTE | Fraylie Nord
⇒You see some weird shit on the subway. But Fraylie Nord, author of “Commute,” might just have the rest of us beat.
Her story “Commute” is sort of an observational narrative. As in a La-di-da I’m riding the subway and this is what I seeeee…. sort of thing. Only instead of simply observing accordion players and urinating bums and uncomfortable-looking businessmen, she takes the narrative into Brautigan Land (with brief layovers in Seuss Land and Lewis Carroll International Airport), populating her story with playful, colorful details and metaphors that come to life and control the overall trajectory of the piece. The story is funny and absurd and dizzying in its what’s-real-what’s-imagined interplay.
The story is very literal. It is wildly imaginative but literal at the same time. I think more writers could benefit from this confidence. The fantastical is not mediated through perception-tags like “seemed like” or “reminded me of” or “I imagined ____ as…” The giant fish on the subway is presented as literally as the two children are. I suppose what this means is we should let the reader do more of the work, as Ms. Nord does. Let the reader figure out what’s imagined and what’s real—they’re up to the task. And in areas where real and imagined blur together, so much the better: that puts the reader in the character’s head, which is where the author wants us to be anyway.
If this story doesn’t make sense, relax. Read it literally if you want. Use your imagination. In fact, read it the next time you’re riding the subway.