The Other Side of Better by Michelle Elvy
Occasionally there comes along a book that takes you completely by surprise. Not knowing much about Michelle Elcy (ashamed to say) this was one of those books. The collection of short writings, poems, and musings as a ‘fuddy duddy’ editor make this text consistently interesting, fresh and almost always uplifting.
By short writings, each of the stories lasts less than a page, sometimes just half a page of text. Yet due to the slices of life being written in a highly poetic style, there is so much emotion and direction packed into these small units. One would imagine that the topics are hefty enough to warrant more page space and yet, they are nugget-like units of writing that captivate the reader.
The punctuated voice of the ‘fuddy-duddy editor’ is a wonderful persona of Elvy’s invention. It takes a little while to really engage with this repeating section but it offers relevant and rich advice perhaps to Elvy herself in alter-ego form, or to young writers who can examine and learn from these little tid-bits. (This writer did)
Looking at the collection as a whole, there is a broad narrative arc encompassing a wide range of ideas deftly presented in that poetic form aforementioned. From sensuality, to musings on natural landscapes, to scrabble settings, to how-to elements around writing, there really is something to tickle the fancy of a huge range of individuals. The poetry alone is stunning in its centrality of messaging and the exploration of the self.
Ultimately, this is a marvellously curated collection from the US born Michelle Elvy. In her role as editor and national flag waver for flash fiction, Elvy’s knowledge of the literary form is clear. Recognising the faults in others (such as the profound use of the comma by so many young writers) forces you to recognise them in yourself. Elvy really captures this punctuation mark as a symbol in the beautifully penned “Love, story” - a real stand out.
One can never underestimate the power of words and of quality writing. This collection is a wonderful reminder that longer is not always better. Sometimes neatly packaged, well written prose creates as much of a lingering connection as any lengthy novel.
Reviewer: Chris Reed