Keeping it Short and Simple: A Review of “The Cape”

It’s not uncommon for a reviewer’s opinion to be affected by the amount of time they spend with a literary work. Depending on their mood at the moment of engagement, a piece of significant length may seem daunting and tedious or generous and epic. A short work may not provide enough substance to satisfy the audience, or it could effectively utilize its size to leave a concise and powerful impact. In the world of electronic literature, there seems to be a place for works of all sizes. Whether an e-lit piece is considered long, short, or somewhere in between, there is a frequent amount of success achieved in establishing content which is both captivating and enduring all the same.

A short piece within the ELC Volume 1 collection which I feel does a good job in harnessing the parameters of its length is “The Cape” by J.R. Carpenter. The piece uses only 9 simplistic pages to tell the story of a trip to Cape Cod. While there is a linear sequence to how each page is presented, the simplicity of the events which unfold makes it seem like their order isn’t really all that important. It ends up feeling like a collection of memorable yet interchangeable event in the narrator’s trip; kind of like how a “perfect day” is usually made up of a number of ideal elements. Due to the short length of the piece, it is all together easy and compelling to experience the story in different chronological arrangements. The images of Cape Cod remain fresh because they can always be revisited instantaneously. I believe that this convenience is the greatest attribute when speaking upon this works length. It is no trouble to dive into and enjoy the story as it is laid out; but it can also be tinkered with and still maintain the same beautiful imagery within the viewer’s mind. I believe that had Carpenter chosen to extend the number of moments in the story, she could potentially have lost the effect due to tedium. In addition, the length of this piece also allows the content to be digested in a reasonable time frame; giving way to more immediate contemplation on the themes presented within. The themes of memories and belief in the realistic accounts of narrators are ideas which are not easy to gather from just one view of this piece. That is why the story’s volume cannot be too overwhelming in content. Indeed, “Cape Cod” is a commendable example of how efficient, provoking and entertaining a piece can be when kept short and simple.

Jay Buchanan

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