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Thursday Quotables – The Chemist

71+JZ4aJ36L._SL1200_“Whatchu need today?” he asked in his think Italian accent.

Charlie walked closer to him, careful not to put his hands on the blood streaked counter where Carlo slices and dices the various meets. He said softly, “Casually look at your door. Are there two guys standing outside right now?” Charlie then raised his voice a little and said, “Give me a pound of hot Italian and half a pound of mozzarella.”

He watched as Carlo moved from his position and started to weigh out the hot sausage cut into six inch links. Carlo stole a glance at the window as he was wrapping the meat in brown parchment paper and putting it in a bag. “Yeah, they’re still there. Who are they?” he asked.

quotation-marks4The Chemist by Chris Blewitt is a very short story set in the 1920s based on a true story. It refers to how the US government poisoned alcohol during Prohibition in order to make it undrinkable, though people kept drinking it with terrible consequences.

I think there really is a story, here. The story of two brothers who don’t communicate the way they should, and so it is that one of the brothers arm the other while doing something he knows is wrong, but thought it would never really change his life. But this theme – that has very strong moral drive – remains in the background. The historical events take control of the narration and I think this doesn’t work very well, in spite of nice moments, like the one I’m quoting.

I see this happen quite often: the author has the idea for a story, but the idea never takes a life and never morphs into a true story. Which, if you ask me, it’s a shame, because sometimes there are true potentialities.


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  • Alex Hurst
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 09:21

    Sad to hear about the story. In your descriptions I definitely saw the potential for a lot of interesting story elements… I think writers, though, are particularly hard to please as readers. 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted June 5, 2015 at 15:47

      Well… that’s true 😉
      But honestly, I think readers are more demanding than we normally think.

  • Celine Jeanjean
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 08:08

    There’s a definitely a story in what you mention, it’s a shame it didn’t quite come out in the actual story. For me the dynamics between two characters, and their relationship, is always the most interesting part of a story.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 5, 2015 at 15:44

      For me too. That’s way concentrating too much on the historical elements may hurt the story.

  • Mimesis Heidi Dahlsveen
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 12:48

    Very interesting. Barbara Myerhoff says in one of her books something like that words are hard to communicate with. Which I guess is some of the same point as in your text above.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 5, 2015 at 15:48

      That’s a fantastic observation!!!!

      Though in this case I don’t think it’s only a problem with words. I actually think communication is fine. It’s the structure of the story that might have been a lot stronger.

  • Aeriko @ The Reading Armchair
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 13:31

    It’s such a shame when there is potentiality, the whole story not to work quite well. The quote you shared was really intriguing, though.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 5, 2015 at 15:50

      Before I bought the ebook, I read the preview and the passage I quoted was part of it. That’s why I bought th book.

  • Amy
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 16:01

    Great quote 🙂 it makes you wonder if there’s anything unsavoury going on and if he’s in danger.
    Have a great day,
    Amy x

    • Post Author
      Posted June 5, 2015 at 15:51

      Well, there is certainly something unsavoury going on, that’s why I was intrigued by the preview 😉

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted June 5, 2015 at 04:44

    The history should never completely take over the story! It feels like some writers are trying to show off all the research they did, or delivering a history lesson instead of a real story. The historical part of a story should never be used as minor window dressing, but it shouldn’t overwhelm the story and characters either.

    • Post Author
      Posted June 5, 2015 at 15:56

      I think this is the biggest risk of historical fiction, and I’ve seen so many story falling to it. I think using just the right ammount of history to enhence the story, and the right details without overdoing them is very very difficult.

      In many ways, historical fiction is so similar to fantasy (which may be why I feel so confortable with it 😉 ): you need to create a complete convincing world so the the reader will believe to be there, but not overdo it, or the reader will be push out of the story.
      It’s a very delicate balance.

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