Pterodactyls and Vonnegut, images and text


My daughter is reading Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan, and yesterday I was telling her about how I can still remember this specific page in the book, how it’s one of those passages that has stayed with me forever.   Partly that’s because the word “UNK” was scrawled in hand-written form about halfway down the page, and partly it’s because of what that hand-written scrawl meant in the context of the story.  But I remember that moment, and it left an amazing visual imprint on me, so that just flipping to the page yesterday reminded me not only of the story, but of exactly who I was when I read it.

So Digital Americana magazine has produced a pretty cool 3-minute video version of my story “Second Memory of Pterodactyl,” which won their 2013 501-word story contest.




I think they did a fantastic job with the story. I like that the focus is still on the words, on their visual form.  The video itself is kind of like the way you might experience a story inside your head, or at least the way I experience it — some images and colors, but also the words themselves, their shape and texture.

Maybe other people don’t read that way — maybe they picture the book more like a movie inside their heads.  I do that too, sometimes.  But it’s also just this beautiful jumble of text in my head.  Text isn’t really just “text,” anyway — any written form is just a set of symbols, drawings that we use to assign meaning.  So seeing the words is, in some way, like seeing the meaning of the words.  (And that’s one reason why I’ve never thought of audio books as being real books. Even if I enjoy them, it’s not the same as reading because you don’t get to make a visual connection with the text.)

Anyway, they did a great job with the story, and it’s humbling to think that anyone spent that much time bringing your ideas to life at any scale.





About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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