Friday Fiction – Mirror

This week’s picture comes from David Stewart via Rochelle and the Fictioneers. I’ve included some previous drafts, although as ever if you just want to read the story itself, that’s cool too.

dsc04876

Mirror (Genre: Modern Fable)

The artist called the sculpture Mirror. The critics were perplexed. Some described “A man, reaching toward his destiny, held back by his personal demons”, others talked of “One man, dragging another out of the gutter”.  “If it’s a mirror, it belongs in the fair. The man is elongated and distorted,” said one, refusing to be drawn on meaning.

Years later, the sculptor finally broke his silence. “In itself, it means nothing. A mirror doesn’t change,” he said. “But show that mirror to a thousand men, they will all see something different … and they will all see something of themselves.”

 

V1

The artist called the sculpture Mirror. Critics were divided: many questioned the choice of name. “If it’s a mirror, it belongs in the fair,” said one, picking up on the strange perspective of the piece.

Describing it, some talked of “A man, reaching toward his destiny, held back by his inner daemons”, others of “One man, dragging another out of the gutter”. “The Chinese figure is depicted standing on one leg, the other elongated and buried in the sand behind him,” said The Times, refusing to be drawn on meaning.

Years later, retired and fading, the artist finally broke his silence about the sculpture. “In itself, it means nothing. A mirror doesn’t change,” he said. “And yet, show that mirror to a thousand men, and they will all see something different … and they will all see something of themselves.”

[The hardest thing about this piece, once I’d come up with the idea, was the order of it. Because it doesn’t really have a beginning, middle and end, I wasn’t sure what to put where. So many of the changes are to the order. I’m still not sure it’s entirely right. Interestingly, this is also a problem i’m having with my novel editing, although for slightly different reasons.

The other problem was length, this is 140 words, and didn’t feel as though it included much fluff.]

 

V2

Critics were divided. Some described “A man, reaching toward his destiny, held back by his personal demons”, others “One man, dragging another out of the gutter”.

The artist called the sculpture Mirror. “If it’s a mirror, it belongs in the fair. The man is elongated and distorted.” said the art critic for The Times, refusing to be drawn on meaning.

Years later, the sculptor finally broke his silence. “In itself, it means nothing. A mirror doesn’t change,” he said. “And yet, show that mirror to a thousand men, they will all see something different … and they will all see something of themselves.”

[Almost on point for length, this still didn’t feel quite right for order. And the emphasis seemed to be in the wrong places. Hopefully, the final version feels more balanced.]

40 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

40 responses to “Friday Fiction – Mirror

  1. I didn’t really understand this Jennifer. It seems very profound, but after reading it three times I’m still no nearer. I’ll pop back later and see if I can gain enlightenment from other commenters. Or maybe the language is so beautiful that I’m looking for a deeper significance.

    • It’s not my favourite, Sandra – I rushed it a bit more than I’d have liked. The plan was to pick up on the idea that what we (as art critics, viewers, readers, whatever) see says more about us than it does about the artist or the sculpture.

  2. Stacey

    I didn’t have any problems with it. I did like “retired and fading,” although I can see where it would be hard to label any artist as retired.

    • I don’t know much about art, Stacey, but I imagined a sculptor could be retired as a result of ill health – hence fading. I take the point that he would probably still be working on some level. Let’s pretend that’s why I cut that line!

  3. Oh, I’m so nervous… what’s it going to be today? A fan… well, of course, always. Certainly not an Ogre or a Stuck Record… maybe a little Feelish.

    I enjoyed the comments of the observers, especially the one relating it to a fun-house mirror. I think that comment has more meaning than he meant.

    • I’m so glad you thought that, Ted – I wanted the refusal to be drawn on meaning to be nicely ironic, because, of course, his comment says as much about him as the others do. Thank you!

  4. I love this and I think we had similar ideas behind our stories. I love the opposing interpretations – that it can be either a demon or one person pulling another out of harm’s way. That’s what’s great about art – there can be so many different ways of seeing it. I love how the crowd is perplexed and trying to figure it all out.

  5. Dear Jen,
    I loved that the sculpture was open to so many interpretations and as in a mirror each one contained the image of the observer. My only issue is that he “broke his silence” which is so overused in the media it means virtually nothing.
    Shalom,
    Rochelle

  6. Excellent piece, and think that the first one you went with is the best take. Well written and clever moral.

  7. Excellent piece, think the first version you show is the best. Well written and clever moral.

  8. Well written! Reminds me of the poem of the blind men and the elephant (which I said for one other story, but applies so well to yours): http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/blind_men_elephant.html. I enjoyed the media comments and thought they rang true and found the sculpture’s comments (and yours) very true as well. (This week I just read the end product.)

    janet

    • Janet, I *love* the elephant and blind men story – I once wrote a short story based on a reflection of it. Maybe I’ll post it here sometime, although I’d actually like to submit it around a few magazines. Anyway, thank you for the happy reminder. And for your kind words. Just reading the end result is absolutely fine by me – I include the drafts only for those who have time and interest in the process.

  9. Dear Mrs. Pendergast,

    Your artist titled his sculpture perfectly as did you your story. Many different reflections are already revealed. The metamorphosis from thought to theme to elegant prose is a nice touch that will help those of a mind to learn from your effort. As I see it, this is a mirror in more ways than one.

    Thank you for following my nascent blog and for understanding.

    C. Hase

  10. I loved this! I only read the final version as I do each week with your posts. I don’t think (especially with this one) I want any more detail. The fable’s ending, moral of the story is all that is necessary.

    • Thanks. Visions. As I said to Janet above, I’m very happy with people who only read the finished article. That’s all you should need, and I only share the drafts for those who enjoy seeing the process.

  11. mirror as title with message to each viewer. I like this.

  12. I think a true artist always leaves room for reflection, giving enough but allowing others to see themselves in the work. Love the concept, well written…
    Tom

  13. Sarah Ann

    Oooh, very clever. I didn’t get it the first time I read it, but did on the second go. It’s a pity the critics weren’t as clever as the artist. Great story.

  14. Our Friday Fictioneers photos could all be called “Mirror” then I guess. Nice work with the prompt, and great commentary on art.

    • Cheers, Brian. I think *exactly* that so often about the FF prompts. If I’d had more time and space, I was acutally thinking about reading everyone else’s stories first (something I never normally do until I’ve finished mine), then stealing a few other people’s interpretations for the critics in my story. I didn’t have time to do it, though, or words to do it justice.

  15. I think you have perfectly created a story about critics and looking for a meaning, when all they see are themselves. I think your final piece came out very clear, but if I have misunderstood something it’s just because I see myself in this piece.

  16. I really enjoyed this – listening to the interpretations of the critics reminded me of being dragged round private views by my artist mother and listening to all the rubbish people spouted about the works of art! I will listen differently in future (though I’m no longer dragged around by my mother!), and see what people are saying about themselves. A thought provoking piece – and the revisions are back. yay!

  17. Dear Jen,

    The enjoyment the above comments illustrate is another mirror for you. See the reflection of your reader’s smiles? And there in the background, over by the potted plant, am I, doffing my hat to you.

    Aloha,

    Doug

  18. well done. i don’t think it felt so rushed, but only you would know for sure. in this part: ““A man, reaching toward his destiny, held back by his personal demons”, others talked of “One man, dragging another out of the gutter”. the comma after “demons” and the period after “gutter” should be inside the quotes even though they aren’t exactly part of the quote. think about fixing it. if you feel like it.

  19. One of the grreat things about art is the various interpretations. Isn’t that what we do at FFF every week? I enjoyed it, Jennifer. I thought it was a difficult prompt, but you handled it well.

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