The fact that no novel in Jeff Brown’s Flat Stanley collection, a heartwarming series about a boy absolutely pulverized by a falling bulletin board, has won a Pulitzer Prize yet is perhaps the greatest tragedy in literary history. Flat Stanley is not merely a children’s book character, but a metaphor for the human condition. We are all crushed by the weight of societal expectations; flattened by a pervasive feeling of worthlessness; able to fold ourselves into a letter and mail ourselves across the country to avoid going to our Aunt Bertha’s Biannual Holiday Observance. We are all Flat Stanley, and he us.
I want to clarify that I am not crazy. I do not believe the Earth or anyone that inhabits it is actually flat; that would be silly. I simply believe that one day Flat Stanley will come to me in the night, proceed to fold himself into a paper airplane and offer to whisk me away on a passing breeze. “The world has gotten too wide,” he will tell me. “There are too many problems, too much depth below the surface of things. Everything is much simpler when you have no dimension. Come with me and you too can be flat!”
“But I have a family here, Stanley. A family that values my plumpness and rotundity. I could never leave them,” I will reply. But I know this is not true. Downstairs, my parents are shouting. Night after night, I lie on the bottom bunk of my bunk bed, wishing the top bunk would fall and flatten me. Maybe then I could slip between the narrow space between my parents as they constantly fight and make love, alternating endlessly, their bodies barring any escape. Maybe I know what Stanley means when he says that there is too much depth in the world. But the bunk bed is well-built, and so I remain plump as hell.
On a whim, I will go with him. I will hold his paper-thin hand as he drops the bulletin board on me. I will be nervous at first, but then I will be flat, numb to the pain of the world, just like Stanley. And for the first time in my life, I will hear nothing but quiet. And then we’ll fuck like rabbits, Stanley and I. There will be no room for anything but love between us.
— D. Schifrin