What I gleaned about the stories: The line between malady and comedy is different for each observer.
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Note: This is a short story collection, so the rules are slightly different from standard Immerse or Die: instead of reading on every time I lose immersion, I stop reading that story and move onto the next one. As usual, I stop reading after the third WTF.
Analysis: The first story opens with a paragraph about the protagonist’s obesity. The initial sentences – stock similes for being overweight – produced a reasonable mental image; however, when her flesh was described as rippling and shaking “long after” she stopped laughing, my belief collapsed.
Slight jiggling for a moment after she stopped laughing would be plausible. But the use of two verbs, combined with an extended time period, created an image of powerful aftershocks.
This might not have thrown me out if the story had primed me to accept ridiculous images; by hinting at magical realism, suggesting that the character was an alien, or otherwise making it clear the usual rules of biology were stretched. However, all I had were commonplace descriptions of a normal human.
Trust in description strained, I moved on.
Analysis: The second story begins with the narrator’s partner finding out a secret. A few paragraphs in I encountered: She’s an understanding girl and all but I think… As all but is a valid construction (e.g. all but devoted to me), and with no punctuation to indicate otherwise, that is how my mind parsed the sentence. Which made me trip over the second half. I quickly realised that “but” started a new clause; however the damage had already been done.
Anything that needs untangling on the first page of a story gets full weight, so I moved on.
Analysis: The third story opened with modern details in a colloquial voice, giving me the sense it was internal narrative and set in the present, or in the recent past. So, when the narrator introduced himself a few paragraphs in without using any contractions, the sudden formality jarred me.
While there are situations in which people would avoid contractions, the colloquial opening hadn’t primed me for a police statement or other formal narration, so my mental image dissolved.
With the narrator’s voice lost on the first page, I pulled the plug.
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