We recently published Quinn Forlini’s aching “Catalog of Small Things.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) This is such a painful situation for the narrator — my heart was breaking for her! And I love all the little details that make everything feel so real: the nurse with her blushing cheeks, the things the mother finds around the house. Were there details you left out from this final version of the story that might have appeared in an earlier draft? Or were these small pieces always the things you had in mind?
I wrote the beginning of this story about six years ago, and abandoned it. Then, about a year ago, I had what seemed like a new approach for the story and wrote the first two paragraphs, then abandoned it again. I later found that first draft buried on my computer, and was shocked to find that the two versions were nearly identical to one another–almost word for word, written five years apart. That was when I knew I had to finish the story. Most of those details appeared in the original version, and somehow stayed intact in my subconscious. I’m attracted to small things myself, so I tried to push that appeal to obsession for the things the mother finds around the house. Some of the things are beautiful, but some of the things are trash–how do we know when to draw the line of what to preserve and what to throw away?
2) Nothing in this story is given a name, and one of the sharpest moments for me is when you say: ” The baby was also a she, but everyone called it the baby.” Do you think if they had called the baby something else, by a given name, perhaps, the mother might have felt more of a connection there?
I think the lack of connection that the mother feels towards her baby is deeper than the absence of a name, although maybe she is further distancing from the baby by not using a name. Names make things feel more real, and the mother is trying hard to obscure her reality. She is in denial. “The baby” feels safer to her. Maybe a name would have forced her to break out of that denial a bit, but I think there are a lot of layers there. I actually did give the baby a name in an earlier version, and it felt very unnatural. It didn’t feel true to the mother’s perspective. The lack of a name might be more of a symptom than a cause.