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Truth and Beauty

Agatha French

— Profile by Oona Roberts, Layout and Design Editor for Elan Literary Magazine

Agatha French is a staff writer at the L.A. Times whose fiction has been published in several literary magazines across the world. She is well-known in the writing world for good reason—her writing is simplistic and realistic while also being beautiful.

One of her pieces that resonated most with me was Nude Descending a Staircase. The story, which is very short, explores a woman who engages in a short fling with a man. Their entire interaction is based on a façade the woman wears in order to gain male attention, even though it’s revealed at the end that she really only wants to discover and understand herself.

On first glance, the theme explore in this piece is an extremely intriguing one that most women can relate to—the need to be seen as beautiful by others, the impact of men in our personal relationships with ourselves, and how most relationships, both inter and intra personal, are based on falsities. The fact that she was able to explore all of these themes in such a short piece was immediately unique and drew me in from the first paragraph.

Her style here is very beautiful, and I feel like it epitomizes the style of most of her work. It appears as very simple on the surface, but every once in a while, there’s an extremely powerful moment that packs an extra painful punch. One of my favorite few lines from the piece was “the nude is like a compilation of every nude that has come before it, and yet it is singular, too. There is no real difference. Any woman could tell you that.” While these statements are short, they are very powerful.

Short, blunt statements are common characteristics in French’s work. However, another common characteristic found in her writing is how the work really opens up at the end. For example, in Nude Descending a Staircase, the last few paragraphs are packed full of rich, luscious imagery.

Nude Descending a Staircase is not the only short piece of writing French has published. In fact, several of her published works are very short; however, each still explores heavy, emotional themes. Next Year is only three paragraphs long, though it deals with renewing, moving on, and the need for change. This piece, similar to Nude Descending a Staircase, takes a normal, every day situation and makes it feel poetic and meaningful. In French’s work, there’s rarely anything extraordinary going on—rather, there are realistic situations that result in very deep character changes.

Overall, Agatha French is a very talented writer who is able to pack beautiful, meaningful punches in sometimes only a few paragraphs of work.