Saturday, January 15, 2005

Father Diodorus

"Father Diodorus" by Charlie Stella, Mississippi Review, January 2005

This is a tale of betrayal and murder. It is also disturbing, risky, sure to piss off a lot of people and be banned from every library in the Bible Belt. For those reasons alone, you should read this story.

I'm not going to say much about the characters or the plot. You should experience this story without preconceived notions about the subject matter. I will say that Mr. Stella's skill makes the story easy to read from a technical standpoint if not from an emotional one.

Mr. Stella handles the two flashbacks in the story well. Flashbacks are problematic in longer works. In short stories they are even more so. They tend to be excuses for authors to fill space rather than serve the story. The two flashbacks in "Father Diodorus" both serve to elucidate points in the story that would have had to be handled with exposition otherwise.

The main character's actions at the end bothered me a little, from a logical standpoint. At first I thought it odd that a character who had been so careful all his life could suddenly at the end be so careless as to leave damning evidence behind. On rereading a second time I noticed that the character believed his current life to be essentially over. The betrayal had been set in motion and could not be stopped. The good father had been well established as a control freak, and stated that he wanted to be in control of how his life ends. This bit of informations is given to us in two sentences just before the final scene, making the ending consistent with character. Personally I wish this had been made a bit more apparent. In a story so emotionally charged short indications like that are often missed.

In short, a unsettling story skillfully written.


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Dave White said...

This story fucked me up, for lack of a better term. It's just a very disturbing, graphic story to read, and Stella got the right reaction out of me as I did. It made me cringe, it made me think about getting up and leaving the story. But I had to stick with it, to see where it went.

I also highly recommend Lambe's "Throw Down Piece," his best story yet.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Bob said...

I know exactly how you feel, Dave. I can't say I liked this story, but it is undoubtedly powerful and certainly made me feel something. And after all, isn't that what good writing is supposed to do?

There are a lot of stories in this issue that I want to get to. So many stories, so little time!

At 1:03 PM, Blogger Megan said...

I confess I found this one progressively less shocking. I'd heard it was disturbing, and based on the opening I was expecting Raymond to be significantly younger (or at least to have been underaged when the relationship began). Once it became clear that power element wasn't present, it turned into a standard revenge story for me, with characters who should've known better but managed to screw up their lives anyway.

At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad the thing got some reactions … my wife claims my novels have hardly any sex and that I unload (so to speak) in the short stories … question to Bob: Can I use your review and the comments on my web page? I'm figuring I should keep stirring the pot … Charlie Stella (

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Bob said...

Absolutely, Charlie. Feel free. Megan is already doing that over at Shred of Evidence on her Buzz Page. And any other authors or editors that want to quote may do the same.

Megan, I think the power element was certainly present. Father D. was Raymond's superior and certainly dominated his life.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Aldo said...

I loved this short. Powerful, evocative and pushing the envelope of what is commerically available. Damn, Charlie, what else do you do you have up your sleave?

Ken BRuen's piece is not too shabby either.

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