Short Story Friday: “Amanuensis” by Stephen Tuttle

As mentioned in my post on the 2008 AML Awards, this week’s Short Story Friday features the 2008 winner for short fiction — it’s awesome that the story is available online because oftentimes the winners aren’t. Next week something from Popcorn Popping and the week after that another story from Dialogue. Still looking for someone to pull a story out of the Sunstone archives. I’ll see what I can do about that in the next couple of weeks, but if something comes to mind fill out the form that’s linked to below.

Title: Amanuensis

Author: Stephen Tuttle

Publication Info: Hayden’s Ferry Review, Issue 42 (Spring/Summer 2008)

Submitted by: Wm Morris

Why?: Because it won the 2008 AML Award for Short Fiction. To be honest, I haven’t read it yet and probably won’t until tomorrow morning.

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7 thoughts on “Short Story Friday: “Amanuensis” by Stephen Tuttle”

  1. First impression:

    It goes on too long and the ending is predictable. I think I like the semi-allegorical nature of it, but we’ll see if it sticks (like Kafka does) or doesn’t (like Paul Auster doesn’t).

    I would have liked to see more risk with the ending.

  2. The style’s very good. I was quite excited at the beginning of the story, and found the style quite readable and well-crafted throughout. However…

    I like the particularity of the story better than the allegory of it, and I like the story less as it progresses. The further I read, the less possible it becomes to think of this as the story of an actual person in an actual town.

    I also think the story would have been better served by some actual examples of his exciting science teaching–which may speak to my desire to have this as an actual story rather than an allegory. (I work in education, so when there’s mention of effective teaching, I want to *see* it, dang it.)

  3. Well said, Jonathan, and I agree.

    Edit to add: I agree, but I’m going to think more about the story and have something else to say. This isn’t meant to halt conversation or be my or anyone else’s final word.

  4. I loved the story. Obviously, it’s not a traditional narrative so my expectations had to be adjusted. But once I made the leap I loved the journey. The miniature town was a nice move and I loved the way the author sticks with it. Were it Auster, I think the story would have trouble ending–a sort of anti-ending. As it is, the author remains patient and sees the story through. The only way it can end is with another snowstorm.

    As it relates to Mormon fiction, I think Tuttle is a bright spot. He seems to want to be part of the Lydia Davis school of writing, which is not my favorite. Whatever the case I want to see what he does in a longer form. Short fiction is nice, but will not do much for Mormon fiction in the big picture.

  5. .

    I liked it. It read like pure allegory (the anonymous ‘they’ insists upon that) but it was clever and interesting. I don’t like either the Kafka or Auster comparisons though, although I regard both highly. Kafka’s worlds are less human and Auster’s are more meta. (Keep in mind that although I love them both, I’ve only read small portions from each. I do intend to finish new York Trilogy this year though.)

    I look at this type of story as being less of a story and more of a puzzle, a game between the author and the reader.

    Not knowing Tuttle already, is this typical of his work?

    Interestingly for me, I just read this a week or so ago.

  6. .

    About the title:

    I had always thought the word was merely a synonym for scribe but now I hear that, these days, it most often refers to someone who writes for another–for instance, sitting in college classes and taking notes for a disabled student.

    If it’s true that this usage is most common these days, it offers an interesting commentary for the story — perhaps that the minitown takes notes on things in a way that the emotionally? spiritually? disabled townspeople cannot.

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