“Single Sentence Animations” Visualize the Short Stories of Contemporary Writers

Lit­er­ary jour­nal Elec­tric Lit­er­a­ture has a mis­sion, to “use new media and inno­v­a­tive dis­tri­b­u­tion to return the short sto­ry to a place of promi­nence in pop­u­lar cul­ture.” In so doing, they promise to deliv­er their quar­ter­ly, 5‑story anthol­o­gy “in every viable medi­um”: paper­back, enhanced pdf, Kin­dle, and ePub.  One clever way they pro­mote short fic­tion is with a free, week­ly sin­gle-sto­ry fea­ture called “Rec­om­mend­ed Read­ing.” And with the help of an ani­ma­tor and a musi­cian, Elec­tric Jour­nal pro­duces what it calls a “Sin­gle Sen­tence Ani­ma­tion” of each week’s rec­om­mend­ed sto­ry.

As the jour­nal describes these short videos, “Sin­gle Sen­tence Ani­ma­tions are cre­ative col­lab­o­ra­tions. The writer selects a favorite sen­tence from his or her work and the ani­ma­tor cre­ates a short film in response.” The Sin­gle Sen­tence Ani­ma­tion above draws from from A.M. Homes’Hel­lo Every­body,” as imag­ined by artist Gret­ta John­son and with music by Michael Asif. The ani­ma­tion cap­tures some­thing of Homes’ “par­tic­u­lar blend of log­ic and unre­al­i­ty” as well as her strange and often unnerv­ing twists of lan­guage.  Homes chose the ser­pen­tine sen­tence:

They are mak­ing their bod­ies their own—renovating, redec­o­rat­ing, the body not just as cor­pus but as object of self-expres­sion, a sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion between imag­i­na­tion and real­i­ty.

Johnson’s ani­ma­tion imag­ines the body as Play-doh, a mal­leable sub­stance, unre­strict­ed by fixed forms.

In anoth­er “Sin­gle Sen­tence Ani­ma­tion,” Ben Marcus’s intri­cate “Watch­ing Mys­ter­ies with My Moth­er” gets inter­pret­ed by Edwin Ros­tron, with music by Supreme Vagabond Crafts­man. The sen­tence Mar­cus chose is:

We speak of hav­ing one foot in the grave, but we do not speak of hav­ing both feet and both legs and then one’s entire tor­so, arms, and head in the grave, inside a cof­fin, which is cov­ered in dirt, upon which is plant­ed a pret­ty lit­tle stone.

As Marcus’s sen­tence drills through clichéd euphemism into the mor­bid and mun­dane, Rostron’s ani­ma­tion peels back lay­ers of dead metaphor to encounter the pro­sa­ic.

Elec­tric Lit­er­a­ture’s Rec­om­mend­ed Read­ing series also fea­tures free online sto­ries from Mary Gait­skill, Clarice Lispec­tor, Peter Stamm, and many oth­ers, in HTML, Kin­dle, or ePub. You can watch all of the Sin­gle Sen­tence Ani­ma­tions here.

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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