Another Texture entry! I wonder how many there are this year.
This is the story of an artist colliding with the pressures of capitalism.
What worked for me
There’s a strong arc to this short work: A bargain, a furious labor, a choice. The sculptor’s obsession with his work comes through, and is backed up by the actions we’re given: Do we stop our work to eat with Ricky, or dismiss him in our hurry? Do we greet or lash out at the suits when they visit our studio? In moments between work, we contemplate.
The prose is compact and effective. The work seemed bug-free - maybe a couple of grammar issues but not enough to be distracting. Also, despite some complaints below, I like this piece!
What worked less well
I had a funny experience early in this story: The baroque de Ribera (1591-1652) painting as the cover image, and the first couple pages describing an old man sitting in front of a block of marble, primed me to think I was in a 16th or 17th century story. That assumption was upset on the third page:
Ricky, the owner of the run-down garage you work in calls for you.
“There’s a fancy suit asking for ya.”
This probably reveals the mood I was in while reading, but it took me a beat to move from annoyed to amused. In retrospect it feels intentional, a rug-pull out of the PC’s musings into the inciting incident - I like it, and I’m struggling to put my finger on why it didn’t quite land for me. Something about the comic timing being off - it happens in the middle of a passage without enough change in style or spacing to give me the reader a matching “jolt.” I’m curious how it landed for others.
The ending felt a bit abrupt to me. We make the critical choice (sell our work and tarnish its perfection by turning it into a commercial product? Or destroy it, letting it live unblemished in our memory?) and get one more page - a very brief postscript, so brief that it leaves consequences of the choice to our imaginations. I feel like it needed one more beat - the sculptor’s own satisfaction, and then the moment that reality rushes in.
Also, I’m going to allow myself to be a bit cranky about the choice itself. There is a real tension between pursuing one’s artistic vision and making money. The reduction here to “total sellout vs. better to destroy it” is a caricature - it risks reinforcing a “no compromise starving artist” stereotype that condescends on real artists struggling to make a living on their work - particularly because destroying the sculpture feels like the “right” choice to me, as written here. So I found myself wishing for more nuance, in a short story where it might be out of place.
There might be a longer reflection to write on this in dialogue with Sunday in the Park with George? That work also draws a jarring contrast between the pursuit of art and the pursuit of art-as-business.
Overall it’s a good sign when a story has me complaining about the theme. This was tidy and punchy and had something to say (even if I disagreed with it). Thank you for sharing your work, Yakoub!