Peer Review by YW328 (New Zealand)

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Narcissus Boy (continued)

By: Yellow Sweater


FREE WRITING

He hated himself. He was a wiry creature of self loathing, of hollow cheeks, arched feet, sharp fingernails, pouty lips and thick breath. He would smile, but even that curve was made from the same hot wire. He had taken sand-paper to his skin, rubbing until his soul was scarred and raw. 

We all experience heartburn, moments when our bodies are revealed to us with blinding clarity. But I have never meant anyone who could endure beauty like he could, who could withstand the dull ache. He was nothing but a model for hungry pencils: lines and sinew and thirds. When we lay together, I could trace his shape and his contours would linger, occupying space, but not consuming it.

It was early spring when I found him on a park bench, gazing at his reflection in the muddy pond. I liked his shape, his Narcissus facade. He had a book in his lap, small, with thick dog-eared pages. Beat Poetry? French Existentialism? I guessed. I crept a little closer, squinting as I tried to make out the title. Howl. I smiled, a holy narcissus boy. I watched him for a while, caught on the sand-paper sidewalk. It was hard to tell in the watery late afternoon light, but I think I fell a little bit in love with the idea of him, with his reflection.  

A swan glided by, a park swan. The boy stretched his neck; eyes to the sky, eyes to his book. I had gotten a fringe the week before. It was the required uniform of coffee-shop lackeys, but it always seemed to tickle my forehead when I was trying to concentrate. It’s hard being a woman, having to reconcile cold-marble expectations with your own breath. I wished I could be like him. A creature of sky and books and reflections, a single hot wire, a conduit.  

Loving him was nothing like loving myself, nothing like I expected it to be. He was feminine in many ways, delicate, burning. I expected to own him. But he owned himself. He had distilled his soul into a body. 

We rode city buses, trespassed through secret gardens, got drunk in underground jazz bars, pressed ourselves against brick walls. I was finishing up a thesis on something. He was modeling, I think. We were a fashionable couple, straight out of the 60s, selling our bodies, revolting against... revolting against the lines between blasphemy and prayer, between blood and bones, between love and hatred; becoming lines ourselves.  


Message to Readers

I created these characters, but I have no idea what to do with them. Any story ideas?!!!


Peer Review

a lot of the prose here is really elegant, "made from the same hot wire" manages to articulate an at least kinda unintuitive emotion very concisely and effectively the prose never feels didactic, i feel like i'm getting clear themes from the text without it just explicitly telling me what to think about. painting the Narcissus boy is used to reflect on his lack of identity by metaphor, the girl's forehead-tickling fringe demonstrates how she feels restricted by rigid social norms or whatever. and thats pretty rad (or rather appropriate for what you seem to be doing with these characters)


i feel like the characterization of the Narcissus boy is inconsistent... like at the start he's portrayed as putting on a veneer of beauty to hide inner turmoil or something. and he seems to be a passive person, and to not have real substance. Then later you describe him as assertive and even sure of who he is, owning himself and having strong beliefs and intense, concentrated feelings. unless im missing something. i feel like you could unify some of these aspects into a more cohesive character; genuine desire for change coupled with private self-loathing might make for a spicy combination... or maybe he only becomes assertive under specific circumstances and when confronted with specific ideas he cares deeply about??? etc. . it'd deepen the themes quite a bit methinks


Reviewer Comments

as for story ideas uhh, there's a decent precedent for fiction about 60s counterculture and its failure (Fear and Loathing is the only one ive read, but apparently Pynchon has some neat stuff too - Vineland, Inherent Vice). and that historical context clearly has parallels to these characters' situations. so you can look into that for ideas

i see conflict here between genuine desire for revolution and freedom, and the inner (personal as opposed to systemic) anguish of the characters and the ways Narcissus boy lies to himself, which might be worth exploring.

more generally, i see undertones of an 'intimate, personal story in the context of a wider upheaval and historical narrative' kinda thing. which might be an interesting angle to tell your story from

p.s. you seem to be smarter than me so take anything that comes out of my mouth with a boulder of salt