One Story Issue # 281: Ann Aspell’s “Fair Use”

Our new issue was procured by contributing editor Will Allison, so I’m passing the mic over to him to make the introductions. Take it away, Will! — PR

This month One Story is happy and honored to bring you our second debut story of 2021, “Fair Use,” by Ann Aspell. Set in Burlington, Vermont, during a snowstorm, the story chronicles a chance encounter between two characters: Jenks is a struggling painter who was fired from his teaching job at the university—and who lost his girlfriend, Lonnie—in the wake of a plagiarism scandal. Ro is a successful visual artist passing through town en route to New York City after a museum purchased one of her painting for its Canadian collection.

The two characters happen upon each other in a park beside Lake Champlain, and when Jenks invites Ro back to his loft to see his masterpiece-in-progress, one might expect they’ll end up in bed together, or not. What one won’t expect is what actually happens: a stunning, subversive transgression that alters the course of Jenks’s life in ways neither character anticipates.

To reveal any more would be to spoil the surprise (and other surprises to come), so I won’t. But suffice it to say, it’s a delightfully satisfying plot, rendered in confident, precise writing that no doubt benefits from Aspell’s background as a poet. The net result is an entertaining, quietly funny, and deeply thoughtful exploration of what it means to borrow from another person’s work.

To read an interview with the author, please visit our website.

3 thoughts on “One Story Issue # 281: Ann Aspell’s “Fair Use”

  1. Where can I read more of Mrs. Aspell’s work? Tough to find her poetry, etc. online. Thanks.

  2. I thoroughly got into this story and could see and feel the interactions– and then came along the ending which made me say “What??” I felt like the ending was totally abrupt, and the author, Ann Aspell had thrown a glass of ice cold water into my face. But then, after letting it sit for a bit, and I came to accept the ending as fitting the tale, realizing that the abruptness of the last sentence mirrors the previous mention of a “bomb and explosion emojis”. And that poor old Jenks is forever doomed to plagiarize other people’s thoughts because he honestly does not know whatever he wants to say.

  3. The opening phrase that Jenks “leaned his thin rump”, the first description of the main character in the very first sentence, suggests that there’s likely to be some author misandry in this story, the same way as if the author was male and the main subject female. When the first thing you notice and comment about someone is the size of their rump, that’s a comment on the observer.

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