Literary Nachos: Ravi Mangla

Review by Stan

nachos drunk dinner

Ravi Mangla

After dinner, Hanif tells the story of this couple, friends of his, who discovered a notebook outside of their home. Within its pages, someone had documented—with cold, ornithological detail—the sexual habits and proclivities of every person on their block. Frequency, duration, volume, position of preference, and so on. Rebecca raised her hands to her mouth. That’s terrifying, she said. The mistake he made, Hanif said, was signing his name on the back cover: the man was their next-door neighbor. A teacher at the local high school. There was a collective gasp in the room. What happened after that? Rebecca said. The question surprised Hanif, who had already started on dessert. I think he moved to Dallas, he said.

This was first enunciate in wigleaf literary journal (a Canadian magazine) and republished here with the speaking of Baker Prize (England) winner Lydia Davis.

GENRE: This is what American authors dub “micro” fiction or more colloquially “Iridescent Insects of Lore” or “Short-Shorts” or “vinegars “ (France) or “Palm in The Face Stories” (Japan) or “Vape-Longs.” This genre is explosive!!, with over 35000 news magazines and many other bound anthologies found in libraries, malls, housing, and private collections, especially in Latin America, from Mexico to Chile, home of The International Conference de Microficciones and legendary Short-Shorts author, Augusto Monterroso and The SOUTH QUEEN OF SOUTH AMERICAN FLASH, Anna Maria Shua, not to be confused with Kim Chinquee, the NORTH QUEEN OF NORTH AMERICAN FLASH, a title Kim no longer that much even claims publicly or cares for to mention so respect THE QUEEN.

TITLE: The title is purposefully roosted in cloud, a “move” employed by professional Short-Shorts tacticians, though first developed in 1950s American advertising industry (primarily on magazine covers: “It Can Make You Lose Thirty Pounds” or “This Will Make Marriage Bearable” etc) and later refried by flashy fiction authors such as Sherrie Flick and Raymond Carver and Robert Bly and Bonnie Culver and Lady Emon and Sinead Morrissey and David Shields and Fujiwara No Go-Kanesuke and Mary Miller (who has left the genre for science fiction deals big six). The title promenades the reader into the text, crossing traditional poetic theory and on into findings of physiology, linguistics and refrigeration (not so unlike a band might name themselves “Brick” or “The Smiths” as to reflect simplicity within complexity), the way a simple grocery bag might promenade a bit of wind to dance like a mob boss (American Beauty) or to gather the drawers of our perceptions (W Blake).

NACHOS: The nachos are implied as the dinner item romantique (French term translated as romance-like), as subtext is the primary mode of Short-Shorts all the day yore, the reader having to glance the writer, the dancer and the dance, as Yeats put it between his unrequited longings for Maud Gonne (a woman who lifted a shotgun and wore live hawks on her shoulders as accessories and wasn’t going to date a fucking poet). Here Ravi, with a deft hand of a clawed cleaver, implies nachos as communal mailbox, a food so natural as to allow the openness of real conversation among adults, a happenstance and milieu as rare as any diamond or honest congressman. Ravi carries the nachos to imply our shared existence. The chips are jagged realization of our mutual tediousness on talking. The cheese is our communal track meet to Death. The toppings aren’t explicitly listed but surely involve mashed onions and a dollop of misery along the remnants. Hanif, our meta-narrator, instantly enters a confessional mode, far from the usual superficial utterings (not to mention obvious lies) of our standard human dinner barrage. But how is this technical fluency achieved? Well, obviously the key ingredients in this Short-Shorts novella move past metaphor and are much more persuasive, as phonetic symbolism involves fundamental synesthetic associations (duh). So, in a word, Nachos.

ENDINGS: Endings are always climbs to cliff in the short form. How does a meal perish? How many poets have quit writing due to an inability to end a poem (not enough, some critics would say). (I apologize for the references to poetry, but poetry is the bastard cousin of Short-Shorts and both miserable genres of the highway three-legged bleeding rabid skinny cur are linked like headless brothers throughout Time.) Ravi goes for allusion, a technique to allow echoes, to beckon this text to catapult from the page and into ether. No, not Shakespeare or the bible. Dallas, Texas, an obvious allusion to assassination and to a key moment in Nachos History: the 1973 public unveiling (by ESPN host Howard Cosell) of nachos as a snack item during a Texas Rangers game–this unveiling eventually leading to the very idea of nachos as a item in every concession stand found on Earthly planet today. Bling.

Full Howard Cosell Nachos Essay here:

American essayist Ravi Mangla is a master of the Slap in Your Face (Japan) form. You don’t mix plaids with stripes in a compress form, as Ravi notes. Mangla’s Short-Shorts is an opaque masterpiece of psychological instability rendered with apt Kraft. Examples? Mangli uses a vague title to draw in the reluctant (like all readers, they would rather be on Tic-Tac app or Netflix or snorting a line of cough syrup than reading) audience, deploys a suspenseful image-based character move (“Rebecca raised her chip to her mouth”), implies through subtext the intimacy earnestly of the theme, and ends with a throttling literary allusion, to allow the text to breathe off the page and into our collective consciousness.

Hail Short-Shorts, me says!

Hail a promenade of the style!

Hail Literary & Culinary Nachos Persevere!


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