Just In
for The Cave Master

6/28/2015 c1 EasyPZ
Simply beautiful. I love your short stories. Hope that you're accumulating an anthology. The writing brings to mind the times a la Ambrose Bierce. And I love how you integrate the natural wonders of the cave with the broader subject of freedom.
6/28/2015 c1 Grace Prince
Really great short! The details are so wonderful, like the use of kitchen grease to light the lanterns. You write like you've been there, and by doing so, I felt immerced in this story :)
1/9/2015 c1 crypticperson019
I enjoyed this thoroughly. The sentences are written perfectly, even if some can get a bit wordy; I love everything about this story. I am so glad you found the perfect balance of dialogue and description. Sometimes that is not easy which brings me to my next point; I like the depth of this story really makes it stronger and easier to read, so congratulations on that. Overall, I'm impressed with this one, too.
8/28/2014 c1 14Shampoo Suicide
Writing: You describe your style as casual omniscience, and I think that really fits in light of this work. I like the POV throughout though, it brings the reader closer to the story through the minds of the characters. I particularly liked how you shared the thoughts of the poet with us, and that they were...well, pretty poetically expressed in many cases. It was a nice touch.

Opening: It didn't grab hold of me, but it was not terrible by any means. A slower paced opening is necessary sometimes, and this is one of those times it's effective. And the writing is compelling enough that you don't need a huge attention grabber. It did get me interested in the world of the story.

Setting: I think you've painted a realistic setting here, given the time and place you're writing about. The descriptions and details used are really effective in building the setting, another nod to your writing skill.

Ending/Enjoyment: I enjoyed the ending and the story overall, and found the news in the letter to be bittersweet. I think this was a nicely paced, well crafted short and believe you did a great job with it.
5/10/2014 c1 Cansei
And, praise, praise, praise, i forgot to add my slight critic :))

The opening, the first sentences. It was a long run, and it put me off of the narrative a bit. I think it'd do better if you put a stop after "groaning pleasantly" and let us catch our breath then start a new sentence with "he was lazing with other guests..."
5/10/2014 c1 Cansei
Very interesting idea, as always your ideas never cease to amaze. I didn't know of Taylor, I confess, but I sort of figured out he's a real person, so looked for it, too. I thought perhaps he even did something like that, but didn't see any work from him for the Mammoth Cave. Mammoth Cave, though, I've heard a few times, but it was very interesting experience reading it from a poet's point, who usually are people that could find the beauty and uniqueness from the most unexpected places, and your portrayal of the poet just managed to conveyed that trait of him. After all, he would have been a pretty much dull explorer if he didn't find it out, too. Great characterization with him there.

Little snippets of poetry and lyricism were just etiquette and proper for him, and again very great characterization. Ever being a fan of lyricism, I especially like this; "A pristine swan in a pit of tar" Bloody gorgeous, and this... "A darkness in which we are revealed," this was very good too, especially the way Stephen said it to them; "we'll blow out our lanterns so you can see what dark really is.". I firmly believe that opposites defines each other; I mean, light defines(and completes) darkness, so you can truly "see" dark without light, can't possibly understand it, too. This was rather philosophic, too, and it went really well with the characterization of Stephen, who was a man like the cave, too. I liked his resemblance to the cave, too, aside being its-master, he was also a child of the cave, a man of the cave, and the color of his skin for that time was a great example for that aspect of his relationship to it. When there is all dark; you're like that "eyeless fish", you can't see, so you can't differ white from black...we're all equals.
For that end, I think I could understand that man's feelings for Stephen, and wanting him to see in his proper "place", serving him...idiot. Though, behind his idiocracy, it was of course understandable that the man wanted to go to a place from Stephen was not only equal to them, but above from them to his usual standards where he had the upper hand. Really, really good aspects for slavery, very subtle but very very close to the point.

I think you played with the intrigue part quite well too, Taylor was being intrigued him, which was understandable, then it led him to something more-something more desirable-which was fueled by his intrigue, but after learning that he was married, it still didn't wane off, because the affinity of Stephen wasn't only physical, but rather his unique position. His looks were just a statement of his stature, much like his hands and his feet that reflected his position, especially with the cave, which were possibly drew Taylor the most. He was like a representation of the cave, which was unique in itself, much like its guide. So I was glad that his-subtle "attraction" was because of it, not just some spur of the moment of lust, because this man is a poet after all :)

"Are there caves there like mine?" ah, this was a great example of what home means to people, and what makes a place home, not your birth place, or the place you have your root for, but the place you feel like you're rooted down... It also reminded me the Little Prince's rose; "but you're not at all like my rose." I think that could be said for Stephen too, because he tamed his own "rose" too; his cave.

Great story, thanks for sharing.
1/12/2014 c1 20Ventracere
Great descriptions! It reminded me a little bit of the Allegory of a Cave, which is a good thing, especially since I'm normally not a huge fan of historical fiction :).
I had a little bit of trouble trying to find out who Bayard was when you switched from Taylor to Bayard suddenly even though you did introduce Bayard as Taylor's full name in the beginning. Perhaps just start out with one or the other and stay consistent so it decreases confusion.

(Karst, an excellent word,) - The last comma seems unneeded.
12/21/2013 c1 2Jalux
The writing here is just fantastic, I especially like how you blend some snippets of poetry into story, it makes it that much more intruging to read. The characters were fairly interesting as well this is mainly due in part to their excellent dialogue, which was well written and flowed nicely. I think the main character is my favourite at the present time. Keep up the good work.
12/11/2013 c1 deadaccount2019
This was the first thing that stuck out with me. Overall the writing is enjoyable, however there are moments where it gets to be too much. The most prominent example is the first paragraph, which is actually an entire sentence. At first I thought the inclusion of exactly what a southern breakfast was a bit unnecessary, but I could have overlooked it if the sentence was divided into two or three parts. Letting it run on, though, really killed the impact of the opening.

Using Baynard's internal musings to add a poetic flare to the narrative really gave the overall piece an intriguing feeling. One of the things I loved the most about how you applied this is that you were conservative with out much is written from the perspective of his musings, which helped to keep the overall piece from feeling conceited or forced.

The cave made for an intriguing setting. I don't see many pieces taking place in such a limited surrounding, but I think you did a very nice job describing and immersing the reader. I loved the overall imagery.

[Other - Theme]
I was rather surprised at some of the underlying themes, but particularly the one on slavery. I loved how you handled it though. It's definitely a heavy topic, but you addressed it in a way that kept the story from becoming lost in a bout of soapboxing. I can't help thinking the handling of the theme would make this a good story to introduce younger students (grade 8-ish) to the topic of slavery while still maintaining a study in writing.
12/4/2013 c1 4lookingwest
Enjoyment - Right away, I just wanted to get out there that I really liked the overall subject of this story, and enjoyed it because it's not really the type of content I come across when I read on FictionPress very often. The thematic interest and time period of portraying slavery in a unique setting/situation and what it means to be free was well explored here, and I enjoyed watching these elements unfold.

Character - You chose a very unique lens from which to view Stephen through Bayard, a poet. Bayard's privileged position (since he can afford to be a poet and make money, and still afford to travel, which hadn't happened before Robert Frost) lends him to seeing things from an upper class point of view because of his money, yet his status as a writer allows him agency and perspective that fits his education. For instance, the interview with Stephen was well explained and justified given Bayard's position and interests, so overall - I really like what you did there.

Setting - This is perhaps my favorite thing about this piece. I loved the setting. I've visited Jewel Cave and Wind Cave in the Black Hills of South Dakota (and I forget, but one of them is right behind Mammoth in length and is the 2nd largest in the US), so your setting was identifiable for me. I've even taken lantern tours on Wind Cave that are supposed to simulate what it would've been like without electricity for tourists in the olden days (aka, this era the story takes place), so I could really picture everything quite clearly. That being said, I'm wondering if people who haven't had that experience would be able to picture it as vividly - while the location is great and contributes wonderfully to theme, and the moments where they see Mother Mary, etc. and other figures in the cave-work is additionally great, I felt you perhaps could've emphasized darkness more. It was SO dark when we went through the lantern tour - and so quiet, not a sound. More senses would be cool to see integrated into your language: touch, taste, smell, respectively. I can't even begin to imagine how frightening and dangerous it was to be a caver during this time period - I didn't really feel that from sense of "infinite abysses" in your portrayal.

Dialogue - At first I was quite skeptical regarding the frequent inner dialogue you were using for Bayard, but I think as the story progressed and we did get into the cave, his position as a writer became more apparent to me personality-wise and I see the justification there on how to explain and portray his daydreaming tendencies, or the way he records detail by thought. Showing that inner dialogue ultimately gave his character a unique quality by showing us a glimpse of his writing process, too, and how he interprets the world around him.
12/3/2013 c1 5monarchos
I ventured here from the review game. A couple of ideas that I hope would be helpful.

The images that you have drawn here are very vivid and lyrical. It's a great idea for the beginning of a story. This looks like a parallel story where Bayard is writing about Steven Bishop while the main story is about him. Hopefully you can draw some good parallels. Sometimes that is tough.

I'm not sure what your objectives are in writing. The first key to any good story is conflict. Conflict isn't necessarily fighting - it can be misunderstanding or conflicting values. Most importantly, it needs tension. Tension can exist just due to the multitude of backgrounds there. Even if you have someone making sly comments while Stephen is eating.

Another opportunity for tension is the anticipation and sense of awe. Bayard has been traveling who knows how long, but he has come to Mammoth Caves to see a wonder. I think we need to feel that sense of wonder as he enters the cave and around each bend. Focus on his emotions as much as the descriptions. I usually have to go through a number rewrites on that sort of thing to even come close to capturing it. The cave should be an allegory for layers of ignorance that
11/28/2013 c1 Guest

This was something different, and I’m glad I read it. I must say, I don’t know anything at all about Bayard Taylor, so I’m going to sound really ignorant, but I’m impressed that you decided to write about somebody real, in a different time period – both things have always seemed so hard to me.

I liked all of Bayard’s observations, particularly the ‘bleached caterpillars’ – he has this lovely critical side to him, which is totally fun to see :). I was wondering why you’d chosen to use the third, rather than first, person here, given that it is so focussed on Bayard, and full of his little thoughts. Not that it read strangely the way it is, I was just curious :).

A couple of CC thinks – I really don’t think that bold type needs to be used in this – I think in both of the cases that you use it, it’s clear where the emphasis should be already – your writing doesn’t need it, and the bold sort of makes it look less professional? But that could just be a personal thing.

The relationship with Stephen was interesting – I would have liked to see more of it (but then I’m just being greedy). And it was sad at the end to find out what happened to Stephen.

I think…generally, with the cave, I would have liked a little more description (or maybe of Stephen in the cave – given he’s the real focus here)? Not that it was lacking anything per se… it just seemed to go by quite quickly, and I think maybe you could make it seem more momentous? Maybe also by adding more events that happen inside the cave? But…I realise this comment’s probably not very helpful or specific at all, sorry! Maybe describe the smells and feel of the place a little more?

11/24/2013 c1 4Jitterbug Blues
Kind of a review return, also here because of the game, but most importantly I also just came here to see what your style is like, and what this whole story was about (I'm hoping to eventually return reviews to all of my reviewers, if time permits).

I'm pleasantly surprised. I wasn't quite expecting something so poignant and beautifully handled. You have a very lovely writing style: I like its clearness, I like its neatness and I really like how coherent everything is. The only thing I'd nitpick a bit is that the slight POV changes here and there were a bit jarring, and sometimes confusing (I had to re-read a few lines to figure out who was talking/or /who/ was thinking what).

But it's a small nitpick. Thematically, I loved this story and how much you addressed – slavery, the cruelty of people who think they're better and disappointment over someone being out of your reach (you have no idea how happy I was that yes, just as I'd expected, the poet was bisexual).

I found your descriptions of Stephen to be very alluring, and I loved how the poet clearly admired and respected him. I admit I'm a bit disappointed nothing happened, because I'm sure it would have been beautiful.

But, even like this, this story was beautiful – sad and wistful, but also just beautifully. Beautifully crafted, wonderful told and poignant – thanks so much for sharing this :)

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