Shana’s Father Wins a Monkey by Jack Pendarvis, Brevity, issue 57, Jan 2018

Shana’s Father Wins a Monkey by Jack Pendarvis is a micro nonfiction piece told in a colloquial style. It reads as if someone is talking to you, and the actions of the speaker are added here and there in brackets [sniff], [chair creaking], etc. The outcome is an immersive experience, which seems a little country intuitive since the actions of the narrator are literally outside the framework of the piece, due to said brackets.

The story itself is about a man, he’s unnamed, but he’s Shana’s father–or that is–Shana’s father to be, as the piece takes place before Shana is born. Anyway, when Shana’s father goes to a movie theater there is a competition to win a live monkey. Like a real monkey. All you have to do is write down a name for the monkey on a piece of paper and the owner of the theater and the monkey, both, will pick the winner. The winner gets the monkey. Like, as a pet. That’s messed up. Anyway, you can imagine what happened. Shana’s father won the monkey.

This piece is a perfect example of how nonfiction doesn’t have to make sense of anything. Shana’s father winning the monkey doesn’t really have a moral. Or at least, the Pendarvis doesn’t really specify what that moral is–even though he addresses the fact that in literature, be it fiction or nonfiction, a moral is typically expected. But in this story, there isn’t really a more, just the idea of an author trying to reach for a moral. It’s clever and something that would never fly in fiction. I like it. I should read more things from Brevity. (B)

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