Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The DoN Literary Potato Peeler Society: An Exercise In Fiction

I've been writing a little lately, and I find that I've become fascinated by style and voice and diction.  This is probably because I reintroduced fiction after a long absence of it in my reading canon.  And I am continually amazed--truly, amazed--by the power that a writer has to lead the reader around, to make him feel whatever he/she wants him to feel, simply by the force of putting certain words into a certain order.

It's just so...Machiavellian, almost. Come peel potatoes with this woman.

=*= Verdele sighed, grasped the peeler a little more firmly, and pushed it the length of the russet in her hand. It was not a job she liked.  It was what her granny would call tedious, but pronounce it tee-jus, and Verdele heartily agreed.  Push, turn, push, turn; it wasn't hard work, but it seemed silly that it was still done this same way, and in this day and age!  It was just too bad that the Rotato didn't take off.  Now that was an invention that every housewife could have used! Verdele sighed again.  Oh well.  At least when all the potatoes were peeled, she could move on to the quick work of the knife.  Cut, chunk, dice. Nice and fast.  And she could reward herself with a hunk of raw potato, crunchy with salt.

=*= At the sink Verdele gripped the potato peeler, silently cursing.  She hated this chore, hated it. It was mindless and stupid.  Once, the peeler, designed to be drawn toward her to skin the potato, got caught on an eye.  In her fury she pulled harder; the blade dislodged suddenly and bit into the soft flesh of her wrist.  Her husband had laughed when she showed him the wound and told him what happened. Laughed!  She had never eaten mashed potatoes--or any peeled potatoes--again. If he noticed, he never said, and he wanted mashed potatoes tonight.

=*= "Hello?...Oh, hi....No, I can talk if you don't mind being on speaker while I get dinner ready....He's at work, of course....I'm fine being home alone, really....Don't be worried about me....I do just fine on my meds, and I have a nice routine.  Like right now, I'm peeling potatoes for dinner. It's very calming and relaxing.  So repetitive, and it's great in that I can see my progress, you know?  Each potato goes from brown to white, then I can cut them up and cook them, yadda yadda yadda....I mean, it's not so crazy and chaotic and intangible like what I did in the city for all those years, you know?  I mean, it was meetings every day--two or three a day, really--and constantly 'Verdele Verdele Verdele', and putting out fires, so to speak, but never seeing the end of anything, you know?...But like, these potatoes?  I peel them, I cut them up, I mash them, and I eat them. I see it all through. I mean, you know?"


  1. I enjoyed these vignettes - they definitely evoke some interesting emotions. Machiavellian is RIGHT!

    I am a terrible potato peeler - very wasteful, with much cursing and sighing.

  2. Almost like getting up to make the donuts. Or not. Bravo!

  3. Melissa B.--I think that guy died. Not from donuts, though.

    Bug--Thanks. I like tossing stuff off extemporaneously and quick like that. It's a nice break from busting my hump with the "real" stuff. And while I'm not a bad potato peeling person, I detest it. Thankfully, Rick is cheery about it.

  4. I adore that you named your protagonist Verdele. My favorite Verdele is Verdele Number One.

    (I never peel potatoes. Eat 'em with the skin or make my Man peel them._

  5. What fun. (The writing styles, not peeling potatoes, the fun of which is directly proportional to the number of potatoes one must peel.)

    Verdele No. 1 and Verdele No. 3 could be from Anne Tyler. No. 2 reminds me more of John Irving.

    Do peel us more potatoes when you can. Or finish peeling one of these. No. 2 has great short story potential (now I'm thinking more Roald Dahl than J.I., lol.)

  6. Ortizzle--Thank you. I like all the Verdeles, but I created them, so.... Now that you mentioned R. Dahl, I think of the short story "Lamb to the Slaughter" with regard to #2. Love that story. I wasn't going there--at least I don't think I was, but I wasn't going anywhere--but I was definitely making the link of peeling the potatoes and being angry with Verdele's marriage. She drew the peeler toward herself and hurt herself, just like her anger about her marriage is inward, and her response to her husband's callousness was only to hurt herself--not eating rather than telling him how he made her feel, or even hurting him back. She even silently curses rather than venting her anger. I tried for the same metaphor/symbolism in each vignette.

    V--Thanks. I wanted a sort of unusual name that, depending upon the characterization, could be either homespun or "cool." I also wanted part of the name to stand for "truth" (ver). The rest you can pretty much figure out.


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