The blogsite Writers for Dinner offers Eunice Tiptree’s artful micro essay “The Boy and the Corn Stalk”—only 653 words—which is a boyhood story that flashes forward to an adulthood realization. I adore it. This essay, employing an unusual third-person point of view, possesses the strangeness of art.
Here’s the Gertrude Stein-ish sing-song once-upon-a-time opening:
“Once there was a little boy, just one little boy even though this was the late 1950s and there were lots of little boys and little girls too. There were lots, but this little boy lived far away from them in a place he though the center of the world, a place of fields filled with rows of shrubs, a nursery filled with plants with Latin names. This was the 1950s and the little boy loved to sit on his daddy’s lap in the big chair as his father napped on Sunday afternoons, the only time the work paused.”
A mythic tone suffuses “The Boy and the Cornstalk,” which is haunting—yet it’s a commonplace story of childhood. It concentrates childhood. Which makes the simple story, one about an apparently trivial early loss, poignant. Tiptree accomplishes so much with implication. Then she makes a huge leap forward in time to the character’s adult insight—also commonplace on the surface yet rare in portraying a resonant inner moment. I think this realization packs a punch because yet again she captures something deeply personal that’s at the same time a universal experience.