One Story: The Third Birdhouse – John Biguenet

3 out of 5

You know what I dig?  SYMBOLISM.

You know what I dig even more?  SYMBOLISM THAT’S EXPLAINED TO ME.

I recognize (I think) that this is an aspect of the subversive yuks author John Biguenet is going for in The Third Birdhouse – a story that twists a haunting opening into a took-a-life-to-learn lesson, pretty masterfully compacted into 11 pages – that of course the lessons in our narrator’s life are so symbolically obvious, but Biguenet ends up shaking that tree a little too much, drawing the reader (or this reader, anyway) out of the story.

…Which is pleasantly understated, making it, admittedly, charming.  It starts with an incredibly traumatic episode during our narrator’s youth and then steps through his following years, dusting the story with major life events and the possible effects that initial episode (and the environment that produced it) may have had.

But like movies that place their sole action sequence at film’s start, the risk is run that you’re misleading your audience to think they’re getting something that they’re not.  Which, again, is, I think, part of the storytelling subversion attempted here, but what follows doesn’t quite dig deep enough or get ridiculous enough to counter that introductory spectre, which is… ironic.  Shall I explain why?