Issue #119: Eraser

When I first read “Eraser”, what stood out was the voice. Ben Stroud perfectly captures the tone and cadence of a twelve year-old boy whose sharp, funny and wise comments give a quick study of his character. For such a short story (only 12 pages) a lot is covered, from his inability to connect with his father or stepfather and his own developing ideas of what it means to be a man to his conflicting desires to be seen and heard and at the same time disappear. I think that Ben was able to accomplish so much because of the strong narrative voice–bringing in an element like this often contributes to the success of shorter pieces. (You should read  Ben’s Q&A to find out how Jim Shepard inspired this character’s voice.) But ultimately “Eraser” has a freshness to it. It feels effortless–which as we know means that there is a lot of work going on, sentence by sentence in each paragraph. Ben Stroud is only at the beginning of his career, but he is off to a magnificent start. I can’t wait to see what he is going to do next.

6 thoughts on “Issue #119: Eraser

  1. Hannah Tinti explains my delight in the story, particularly her comment about the perfect capture of “the tone and cadence of a twelve year-old boy ‘s … sharp, funny and wise comments. But I thought the narrator’s mask dropped in one sentence, where the boy describes the lake as “green and slimy and looks almost sentient.” Sentient is the right word, exactly, for the thought, but it did not ring true, coming from a young boy, no matter how precocious. Would it have been better to use a not-quite-right term such as “alive” to maintain the speaker’s credibility? I hope to find another Ben Stroud story appearing in One Story in the near future.

  2. “Eraser” showed me a side of Texas culture I didn’t even know existed–an interest in wowing a reader with exaggerated symbolism and a reeking (almost sentient?) wimpiness. Now, I realize this must be Stroud’s unwitting foil for big-Bubba machismo as exhibited by the stepfather character. But the whining and resignation of Holden Caulfield’s Weaker Mini-Me evokes the smell of something else: the things an MFA in Creative Writing will do for you as it dictates your career from the ivory tower, ex post facto.
    Another tip, Editors: This water thing is getting a bit old–witness “A Splendid Life”, “The Good Word”, and “Safe Passage”. Yes, we’re educated readers; bodies of water have long held a wealth of Thematic Meaning, okay. Please vary your sources of “TM” from here on. Let’s have more zingers like “Flight Path”, “Archangel”, and “Hurt People”–head-on, unflinching, real-folk tales that make me want to renew my subscription to OneStory. Best wishes!

  3. One of the great strengths of ‘One Story’ is that it’s a magazine that is continually able to root out and nurture new and distinct voices and with Ben Stroud, Ms. Tinti has done it again. I admire the editors’ willingness to take a chance and to introduce me to an author whose prose expresses the pure, unadulterated joy of simply being able to write. As with all great stories, ‘Eraser’ is one I didn’t even know I wanted to be told but in just a few short pages, Stroud finds a unique and compelling way to capture the experiences and the voice of adolescence. I wish him the best of luck in his sure-to-be-successful writing career.

  4. All naysayers to this tale are are stricken with the most unfortunate brand of folly: ignorance! This story nearly (emphasis on nearly) made me wet my pants with joy while reading it on the A train. I loved it so much that I missed my stop in order to get to the ending. I’m sure we’ll see many more stories of this caliber for years and years to come thanks to Hannah Tinti, Super Editor™!

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