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Short Story Review: "This is Not a Love Song" by Brenden Mathews

This contemporary story is about two long-time friends, one a musician and the other photographer who always has her camera at the ready. And her favorite subject is the musician, Kat.

The story is narrated by the photographer as if she were flipping through a photo album, pointing out certain pictures to the reader. This gives the piece an episodic feel to it, yet the narrative is complete.

Interior. Stairwell. Evergreen Avenue Loft.

She stands in the doorway, a ghost outlined by the yawning black of the stairwell. She looks drained, which is how she often looked in those days. Her arms are folded across her chest and her skin bleeds into the T-shirt, white on white… You can say that the way her body burns a hole in the image is just a photographer’s trick, a little darkroom magic to saturate the blacks and flush everything to the whitest white, and you’d be right. But you can’t deny that she’s pissed. (p. 212)

Kat and her band eventually meet with a little bit of success. The photographer follows, quietly taking pictures. Sometimes it gets in the way, as it does with Kat’s boyfriends who’d prefer a little privacy. There’s that night that Kat’s at a party and had a bit too much. As Kat’s roommate, the she’s told to come get her and finds her puking by a toilet, nearly incoherent. The photograph pulls out her camera.

The writing is clear and concise; the photograph-like storytelling device works as well. There is poignancy without melodrama. While I find myself dislike a lot of contemporary stories told for other writers and stories about artists, this one worked for me.

Title: “This is Not a Love Song”

Published in: The Best American Short Stories 2014

First Published : Virginia Quarterly Review 89/3

Author: Brenden Mathews



©Denise Longrie

Image Credit » by sbl0323

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allen0187 wrote on April 2, 2015, 8:54 PM

Sounds like the type of story, I'll likely finish reading in one sitting. I'll have to look this book up online.

msiduri wrote on April 2, 2015, 11:09 PM

It's a short story. I hope you like it should you read it. Either way, please let me know what you think.

CalmGemini wrote on April 3, 2015, 1:49 AM

I read the story because you reviewed it.When I started reading it I was sure I would not finish it.But I did read it.It is a long short story.This one had the quality of readability.May be because it touched two subjects of interest to me-music and photography.Not to forget human psychology..Thanks.

msiduri wrote on April 3, 2015, 8:48 AM

If those are two areas of interest to you, I can see where this would pull you in. It's not a happy read by any means. I hope you found it worth the time to read, though and my review a, well, reliable guide. Thanks for you comment.

CalmGemini wrote on April 3, 2015, 9:11 AM

I am glad that I read it.Thanks.I look forward to your reviews.

msiduri wrote on April 3, 2015, 9:14 AM

I'm relived. And heartened. I'd feel really bad if you read something because I reviewed it and you disliked it! Thanks.

scheng1 wrote on April 4, 2015, 3:55 AM

This is an unique way of writing, almost like grandma telling stories through photos.