GOING BOWLING WITH MOHAMMED | Ron Riekki.
⇒This flash piece is funny and profound, so many things at once.
By way of premise/summary, here’s the opening fragment to give you a taste of what’s in store for you:
I wanted to write a short short story about Mohammed, but I live in France and Charlie Hebdo happened recently, so I thought I’d keep it safe and just go bowling with Mohammed…
Which is exactly what he does.
This got me wondering: if Islamic extremists get pissed off when Muhammed’s countenance is portrayed visually, does this happen when he shows up in someone’s fiction, too? I suppose if someone wants to be pissed off about something, they’ll find a reason.
What I appreciate about this story, though, is that its stream-of-thought comedy (it’s very fast-paced, very associative at times)–while quite comical–is also respectful, even reverential in tone to subjects like Mohammed and Jesus. Consider:
…Mohammed pretty much never did anything wrong, just like Jesus, and I wish I could be like that, I wish I could be like Mohammed and Jesus, but I’m a writer…
So even though this is a satire, a funny and wacky send-up of radical fundamentalism and cultures of violence and repression, the piece also cradles some really important values like peace and tolerance and–you know–not killing people because you disagree with them or because they offend your arguably primitive values. As mentioned, this all circles around the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and in my estimation, this piece is both an effective commentary on its own and an excellent tribute to the Charlie Hebdo victims (what better way to honor slain satirists than by peacefully continuing their work?).
So that’s the commentary side of this piece, but it’s important not to lose sight of the story’s technical achievements, even if its charged subject matter takes precedence. Let’s take this piece apart and see how it works:
- First off, this piece is one long sentence. While it’s easy enough to write a really long sentence (not to be confused with a run-on sentence; long sentences are correct, run-ons are not, said the Grammar Snob) it’s difficult to structure its syntax/rhythm so the reader doesn’t get tired and give up (here, dashes and commas are placed in just the right spots, and the author doesn’t rely on semicolons to make the sentence work; semicolons are cheating).
- The piece is an anecdote: Hey, let me tell you about the time I went bowling with the Prophet Mohammed… sort of thing. Accordingly, there are lots of topical swerves and time leaps, which make this an adventure to read and authentic as well.
- The diction is colloquial, as you’d expect, and in stark yet hilarious contrast with the fact that the speaker’s hanging out with a very formal-seeming individual: Mohammed.
- Since this is an anecdotal narrative, first person obviously, it’s light on imagery and the various metaphors writers use to bling out their stories, except at the end, where we find an understated metaphor that proves an extremely satisfying conclusion.
And that is all I have to say about that. Go read this piece and support its journal, ExFic.