“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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