“When you know that a person is violent and ruthless, you will see violent ruthlessness in such basic things as his swim stroke.” – from The Black Box
“Spurs and gashes of stone narrate a violence that the earth itself has long forgotten.” – from The Black Box
Contemporary authors are known for their penchant for experimentation, but Jennifer Egan may take the cake with her piece The Black Box.
The Black Box is a story told entirely through tweets on The New Yorker‘s Twitter account. In this short story, Egan slowly unfolds — tweet after tweet — a tale of espionage, patriotism, science fiction, and love. Each tweet is poignant and relatable and written with a masterful flair, and each line stands on its own as a beautiful micro-poem.
The tweets are written somewhat like a manual and addresses a “you”, thereby drawing the reader into the story as the next potential spy in this line of work. You can easily imagine someone, a superior perhaps, training you to be an agent: “The purpose of the red ribbon is to orient you; if you awaken to find yourself clutching one, look to your foot.”
The mix of past tense, present tense, and future tense, as well as the definite and the hypothetical, alternate to culminate in a profusion of possibilities. More than once, I needed to double back and reread a post to determine what action the heroine had made, or what “you” were expected to make on your mission.
Confusing yet ultimately deeply satisfying, The Black Box, is highly recommended for anyone looking for an immersive and moving short story and creative, unpredictable execution.