i am here And You Are Gone, Shome Dasgupta, Outsider Writers Press, 2010
One of the things I love most about twitter is discovering new (to me) authors and writers, and sometimes even getting to know them a little bit. Shome Dasgupta stands out as one of the most gracious, frequently and generously sharing other people's work, and only rarely mentioning his own. Stop and look carefully, and take the time to learn more, for if you don't, you are at risk of missing some beautiful writing.
i am here And You Are Gone, winner of the Outsider Writers Press 2010 Fiction Chapbook Contest, is the exquisite and touching story of Mary and Jonas, childhood friends and soul mates. Jonas is shy, devoted, patient. Mary is kind, sparky, sometimes vulnerable, and -despite their strong connection- always just beyond reach.
In the opening paragraph, Jonas, a kindergartener, asks Mary to marry him:
...she said yes, and he gave her a dandelion.
I was instantly hooked.
i am here is fairly brief, so I don't want to spoil the story by saying too much. We follow Jonas and Mary's relationship over their school years as they grow sometimes closer, sometimes farther apart with the events and milestones of growing up. The writing is lovely throughout, and delicately captures the emotional intensity, fragility and awkwardness that make up childhood, puberty, adolescence, and young love. As a young adult, Jonas reflects:
We are motionless: I am a mosquito, you are amber, and we're fossilized. Millions of years later, paleontologists will find us on a piece of bark; they will see the petrified look on our faces and wonder what had caused such eyes. We cannot answer, for we are in each other's mouth, wishing we were made of cotton and orange peels.I also loved how Dasgupta visually uses the text (such as in Mary's betrothal dandelion above) in different ways to highlight the story - sometimes repeating words and/or altering the size of the font to echo, quiet, or amplify the characters' voices, or to express inner voices alongside spoken ones. The technique really fits, and never overtakes the story itself.
i am here is very moving and left me rather choked up. I highly recommend it for thoughtful (and more mature, due to content) readers, writers, and short fiction aficionados - especially those who are open to reading something a little - but not too - unconventional. All book lovers should also check out Dasgupta's wonderful blog series featuring writers' reflections On Reading.
Shome Dasgupta (@laughingyeti) is the author of i am Here and You Are Gone (Outsiders Writers Press, 2010) and Tentacles, Numbing (Black Coffee Press, 2013). His website can be found at www.shomedome.com and he hosts the On Reading Series at The Laughing Yeti.