by William Becker
New York Onions is a short story dealing with issues of addiction, despair and loneliness all of which are encapsulated within metaphorical bags of onions.
This is a powerful, thought-provoking piece of writing. The repetitive imagery and short, at times, staccato sentences really emphasise the bleak daily grind for the main character, Jessica. Although using metaphor to both mask and explain addiction is not a new narrative technique, it feels very fresh here. The three pages resonate with dark hopelessness. Mr Becker’s spartan use of language help convey a grey, forbidding place both in Jessica’s mental state and also the figurative squalor of her flat. In the first sentence of the second paragraph, we are told that she has the ‘urge to paint’; there seems to be a glimmer of hope; ‘paint’ normally suggests colour but we are quickly made aware that this is misleading. The black marker pen is an astute addition. The steady increase of black circles, faces and lines over the walls accentuate her ghastly, stark existence without direct reference. As the story progresses the drawing of circles within circles underlines the repetitive spiral of addiction. The only one time that any colour (other than black) is alluded to is ‘blood-stained towels’, which is also one of the few times we are not dealing with metaphor. The appalling truth of Jessica’s situation is laid bare in that one descriptive phrase.
Personally, the last paragraph, whilst incredibly poignant, did not seem to entirely fit with the foregoing story.
Clearly, this is not the lightest or brightest three pages that I have read but it left me wanting to read more from Mr Becker. The surreal depth and mature quality of the writing made for a very haunting and clever story.
Download 'New York Onions' HERE