The Motion by Lucy K. Shaw (short fiction), 421 Atlanta, 70 pages
The Motion by Lucy K Shaw begins with a trip to the residence Sylvia Plath occupied shortly before her death. The narrator’s mind is torn between a blistering hangover, and the nagging feeling that our connection to the past does us little good as we search for a personal future, “I don’t think that I think it’s okay to go to a house where a poet lived 50+ years ago, but I have done this type of thing many times before, and anyway, everyone else is into it.” We live in a brave new world, where available information is a dark yawning ocean invisible around all of us. But, The Motion wonders what right we have to tap into that information, and to seek out personal connections in the ultramodern age, whether they be to long dead artists, or to the living people we choose to invest ourselves in.
Throughout the collection, the nameless narrator finds herself driven ceaselessly forward, and a real and lasting connection to virtually anything seems impossible in a world this fast and fleeting. The Motion presents the reader with an idea that may have been nagging them for decades now: if we have access to limitless information and limitless connectivity, both past and present, how can we know if the connections we choose to make are the right ones? How could we ever truly slow down in such a reality?
Across multiple continents and a fluid sense of the way time gets away from us, the narrator of Shaw’s stories attempts to reconcile all the empty spaces in her life with carefully constructed lists that catalogue the monumental and the mundane alongside each other. Through Shaw’s naturally conversational prose, pop culture becomes a language unto itself, a secret music of obscure interview quotes from dead writers, hip hop lyrics known by millions, and injokes between ex-lovers. Through museums, city streets, and the empty haunts of long dead artists, Shaw explores the ways in which the digital age has made the world seem confoundingly both bigger and smaller, a kaleidoscope of information we’re all at the mercy of. The Motion argues that we are now, in fact, just keenly more aware of our distance from one another, city to city, century by century. In “The British Museum,” the narrator is urged to listen to a clock that has kept ticking for hundreds of years, lifetimes after its maker has passed away, and the historic cacophony of such a simple sound is thunderous.
In the final story of the collection, “Wedding,” the narrator finally finds herself coming to a stop in Berlin. “Time has slowed down. And I know that for sure because I understand it now. It happened on the same day that I figured out distance. It all clicked.” Eventually, a sort of soft reckoning manifests itself, and we all must accept the accumulation of humanity we’ve poured into our hearts over the years. The Motion is an ode to the ways we can cut through all the death and the distance to take hold of a single moment together.
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