Author Archives: Brian Sprague

Response to “Discomfort Food” by Maggie Downs

On the website,, I decided to look into a collection they had called, “Nonfiction: a nonfiction anthology about food and life,” as in my last exercise, I want to create a theme of emotionally connecting to music, but I don’t think I was particularly successful. Food like music, elicits of variety of response, and come to a person randomly or by choice. I was hoping to find something that figured out how to do this in a better way than I did. I choose the story “Discomfort Food,” by Maggie Downs, for its intriguing title playing on a common expression. In this story, the narrator’s mother, who is terrible, but well-meaning cook, dies, and his house is stuffed to the brim with delicious food, that lasts for weeks, from relatives and neighbors showing condolence. The strange irony in this is never addressed. As a result of his mother’s death, the narrator finds himself in situation of which was always deprived of before. I don’t know how significant it would’ve been for the author to say something like, “I’d rather eat dry chicken the rest of my life than have lost my mother,” but it’s weirder to set up it up in the exposition, where he complains about his mother’s cooking and then not coming back to it.
An incredible list of food items is given, replete with details about how each was carefully made. The narrator doesn’t describe eating any of these pieces. They sound very good, but no character in the story is there to enjoy it and I found that disappointing.

The piece was mostly about losing his mother the parts about food were very extraneous. I felt like the piece was written to be submitted for this category. The title and was only address were he talks about not feeling hungry, feeling that the food won’t be comforting. It would have been much more poignant to talk about trying to eat and not being able to. The piece takes place over several weeks, so we know he didn’t completely not eat. In the end this piece was more eulogy than anything else, though I wanted to see more details about his relationship to his mom, but rather we are given a lot of detach biographical information. It’s a sad and touching piece, but more needs to be developed, and maybe the food could be taken out completely. I didn’t get what I was looking for and felt mislead. This is a problem for creating a category and asking for submissions. People might distort their writing unnaturally. It’s harder to fit a specific category like this and have it be non-fiction. I feel like it’s not unrealistic to ask someone to talk about their love and connection to food, or to ask someone to tell a story that involves food on the ways, but to ask one to tell a story that is heavily based around food, and reveals a truth about another facet of life, is a little too ambitious. This category might have done well to open up to fiction as well as non-fiction.


Factual/Fictional Response to Jenny Lapekas’ “What Do You Wanna Talk About?”

On the website,, I decided to look into a collection they had called, “Re/Coded: a nonfiction anthology about our digital lives,’ as it related to the digital communication theme I explored in my last workshop piece. I decided to read “What Do You Wanna Talk About?” by Jenny Lapekas. That question always unsettles me in real-life, as it’s very unnatural way to get into a conversation about something, and often only leads to a skeptical debate that makes for a very unsatisfying conversation. I thought the title meant a conversation would occur with this said, but really it’s just something written on a site that hosts a chat room that the author visits.

She provides pieces of a digital conversation she has with a man in the chat room. Digital conversations have the advantage of easily being reproduced identically, when the author knows ahead of time that they will use it to write about it. This ironically increases skepticism for me. That the author knows that they will use the conversation, means the author’s side of the conversation isn’t natural. I would like to hear specifically when this isn’t the case.  I want to know that the author didn’t realize she/he would end up writing about the conversation. A person aware that they conversing only for a story, isn’t part of the story, but rather an interviewer, or someone conducting a sociology experiment. This piece doesn’t explicitly make that clear and I don’t like that. It’s fairly clear that it isn’t contrived at the end of the story, but it hurt me giving her credulity earlier.

In my last writing exercise, I took a lot of criticism for not having enough text speak or making the dialogue lazier, as some people text that way. However, the way two characters were texting were similar to how I talk with most of my friends. We talk with complete sentences, trying to be grammatically correct, and with no spelling errors. The only text speak I use are: :), lol and haha. And I only use these when I need something to have a more neutral or positive tone that I fear might not be conveyed. The two people in this piece were unlike me and my friends. I’m not sure what the percentages are between the two types of people, but now I really want to know.

The story of the relationship wasn’t successfully conveyed. A cute joke exchanged about The Wizard of Oz and several examples of the man complaining about younger women were they only examples we get of them bonding. There were no examples of one of them confiding and receiving an epithetical reciprocation. She tries justifying why the two need each other, rather explaining how they were becoming close. Sometimes people justify relationships that aren’t well-reciprocated, but then the story should be about that. It’s not a story about emotional interaction or lack-there-of.

Writing good non-fiction requires recognizing important transition. The author transitions the relationship from a mundane chat room conversation to talking everyday on the phone, and then to meeting in real-life, with nothing tying these events together. In the end this story was nothing more than a poorly written case study, suggesting that one instance of a person transitioning into a pleasant first date ending with sex from a chat room, is somehow empirically significant.