on Nov. 26, 2011 :
It is a pleasure to return to this author's evocative short fiction. I love Mark Stewart's narrative style and the emotive colors that his scenes conjure up in my mind. Reading his endearing short story "Grey," I slipped into a world that was mysterious, forbidden and romantic -- and timeless.
In terms of craft, Stewart intelligently and effectively uses time and suspense to structure a fictional memoir involving attraction and infatuation in a tabooed May-December relationship. Although he may have intended for "Grey" to be read and enjoyed by adults, I believe the work is appropriate for adolescents (age 16 and up).
By contrast, many of the full-length novels that I read as an adolescent -- books that I borrowed from my local library's young-adult section -- veered straight for the loins and contained graphic scenes. However, there were some books that captured how many teen boys and teen girls felt about love, with all its enchantment and confusion. Here, with "Grey," Stewart easily tugs at my empathic sensibility where the young man is concerned.
I'm not convinced, though, that the author clarifies the older woman's emotions, as there is more complexity behind those grey eyes than Stewart decided to explore do not take issue that "Grey" is presented as flash fiction; I love short stories, from micro-fiction to novellas. I simply disagree with Stewart's choice of protagonist. If the female character had been narrating the story, if it had been her memoir, I would understand a motive other than desire. Given her age in the first part, I can imagine various kinds of dilemmas that she was facing before or after encountering the male character.
Another device that Stewart could have employed was dual POVs plus narrative in the third person. For example, the story could have been a he-and-she memoir, with a third-person narrator describing the same actions tha unfold in the current story's second part.
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, as a writer who purposely has created short stories with open endings, "Grey" needed to fulfill the unspoken promise of the action in Part 1. I'm left somewhat insatiated, like I've been served my ramekin of creme brulee but can't finish it without the glass of Port that I also ordered. Then again, given the mysterious nature of "Grey," and the characters' awkward feelings, perhaps the author counted on that imbalance at the story's conclusion.
I prefer my desserts sweet but don't need Port always. A demitasse of espresso paired with a slice of this or that sometimes leaves me smarting with bittersweet aftertaste. Such is life.
I hope that, one day, Mark Stewart writes the book on love from these two characters' perspectives. He still could lend mystery to the story while fleshing out the characterizations, including never revealing the pair's names (think of the namelessness in Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris). I yearn to learn what happened during the absence of "Grey"'s characters (flashbacks would be great!) because I need to discover who they are.
(review of free book)