I recently read Jim Dodge’s ‘Fup‘ – a 120 page novelette about immortality, whiskey, wild pigs, magical ducks and a cursing grandfather and his grandson Tiny. It’s a brilliant story, and a very quick read. So much is compacted within its 120 pages, that to not look at how Dodge manages to keep it all contained would be a sin.

I have, below, listed every turning point in the work: first, the page number, then, the description of the action, and finally its rating of 1-5. 1 is the smallest turning point/change in the story, and 5 would be the biggest. Then, I’ve put this info into the graph, showing the turning points and where in the story they occur.

We can see several trends: the story starts off highly erratically, mixing several POVs and time changes. The back story is most highly prominent between pp 49 and 67, and it’s here where the story is at the half way. Interestingly, Fup, the female duck who becomes the main character is also introduced at this half way mark. After Fup’s arrival, the story takes off again, although this time, the progression to the end is much more smooth and controlled. Dodge, therefore, formulated his story by incorporating the back story, conflicts and character development in its beginning, so that the reader has a clear frame of reference before Fup arrives to disrupt this balance created.

So, let’s begin:

The duck is mentioned and Gabriel dies. Major T/P. [5]

The Indian gives Jake whiskey. Major T/P. [5]

Cliff Hobson tells Jake about taxes. Minor T/P. (but without it, Jake might not have adopted Tiny) [2.5]

Jake learns of Gabriel’s death. Major T/P. [5]

Jake sees the ducks in the sky – not a T/P but more a re-affirmation of him settling down and become a grandfather. [3]

The storm that sweeps in from Hawaii: a symbol of change. Maybe a premonition of Fup’s arrival? Leads to the checkers game where we are allowed to learn more about the characters (BTW: “Jake dreamt constantly now, like a stick carried by the river” that’s such a good line) [2.5]

Bill the Thrill – Jake sells his stock and gets a distributor – I think from this point on Jake’s no longer immortal; he has sold his soul by commercializing his whiskey. If so, major T/P. [4]

First mention of Lockjaw. [2]

Jake wins the long checkers match, weather is clear. What we learn of during the storm period (Bill the Thrill and Lockjaw) must, if my logic is right, both have negative implications on our MCs. [1]

Fup arrives – Major T/P. [5]

Jake feeds Fup the whiskey – they become directly tied by its magic properties, Tiny only has a little of it and drinks less than both of them. Minor T/P. [2.5]

Drive in – Fup becomes one of the family – literally (Minor T/P). This is a happy scene, and will, by logic, be followed by conflict. [1]
Fup is increasingly being given human characteristics – finally indicating a preference for certain genres of movies (!) The gradual way Fup is characterised adds authenticity to the narration. [1]

Sunday morning pig hunt is first mentioned. [2.5]

Fup can smell and follow wild pig, first connection with lockjaw [4]

Lockjaw is seen once, twice [1]

Lockjaw’s POV (!!!)  Lockjaw is immortal. Not sure who’s telling us this, omniscient narrator or Lockjaw [2.5]

Johnny Seven Moons introduced. Is he Lockjaw? Seems too simple… [3]

JSM leaves, says he enjoys the domestic gone wild. Is he Jake’s opposite (who is wild gone domestic)? [2]

Jake meets Lockjaw. Jake is saved by Death Whisper. Interesting: whiskey/alcohol was the downfall of native American Indians. So, what does whiskey actually represent? If JSM is the ‘real’ Indian and Jake’s Indian is ‘tainted’/corrupted by his pursuit of a white man’s drug, maybe Lockjaw is JSM. [4]

Jake is bored of immortality – he needs to ‘teach something he didn’t know’ – teach Fup to fly – Major T/P [5]

Jake throws Fup and she falls, unable to fly. [2]

Jake loses his teeth trying to get Fup to fly. Clearly this is a mistake. Fup has already been domesticated and it’s too late for her to change. [3]

Tiny shoots Lockjaw, Fup gets in between the barrel and Lockjaw, dies [5]

Fup is reborn out of Lockjaw’s innards, flies, and dissapears. [5]

Lockjaw is really dead, is buried [2]

Jake dies [5]