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Organic connections and creatures of compost: when humility reframes the ambition of short fiction. Reading Ali Smith’s “The Beholder” (2015) & Daisy Johnson’s “Starver” (2016)

Abstract : Ali Smith’s “The Beholder” and Daisy Johnson’s “Starver” unfold around shapeshifting bodies. Here, a girl on hunger strike turns into an eel; there, a patient witnesses as the growth on their chest blooms into a rose shrub. As these bodies vitally assert cross-species connections, the unspectacular accounts of the transformations confirm their humble quality. In exploring this earthy becoming-fauna-&-flora of the body, both stories can be said to constitute “compost narratives” (Haraway): fictions that deconstruct human exceptionalism by acknowledging kinship across species boundaries. This ecological concern with our condition as creatures of compost also provides a new understanding of “shortness” as a generic feature. By organically integrating their readers’ temporality, stories such as “The Beholder” and “Starver” refuse to play by the rules of “the attention economy,” and compete in the great market for our cognitive availability. Instead, they uphold ecological definitions of time and attention, as that which florishes when we care for the ecosystems we inhabit.
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https://hal.univ-lorraine.fr/hal-02951723
Contributor : Diane Leblond <>
Submitted on : Monday, September 28, 2020 - 8:25:51 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 3:28:57 AM

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Diane Leblond. Organic connections and creatures of compost: when humility reframes the ambition of short fiction. Reading Ali Smith’s “The Beholder” (2015) & Daisy Johnson’s “Starver” (2016). Journal of The Short Story in English / Les Cahiers de la nouvelle, Presses de l'Université d'Angers, In press. ⟨hal-02951723⟩

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