Exploring the art of prose


Tag: Figurative Language

Author’s Note

I used to hate listening to fugues. Even as a classically trained pianist, I found them mild and obsolete compared to more mainstream works such as Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphony or Beethoven’s no. 5. Quite simply, I preferred compositions with “oomph”—that drama, passion, and spark. Fugues just seemed to lack that interest.

It took me years to realize that music did not have to be showy to move the listener. Though fugues sound mellow on the surface, they are the pinnacle of creative genius: the entire piece is based on a single melody, which may be altered and reassembled with secondary melodies like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. These interactions fascinated me, and I knew I had to involve them in a story of some kind. It only seemed fitting, then, to pair them with a narrative involving the woman who first taught me music—my maternal grandmother, or waipo.

I believe that the most profound pieces of fiction draw heavily from real life. Thus, although “Analysis of a Fugue” is entirely fictional, I could not write about the relationship between the girl and her grandmother without exploring my childhood experiences as a second-generation immigrant. Like the narrator, I also wanted to blend into my overbearingly white environment and fractured the connection to my cultural background in the process. Such a story is far from uncommon, but I wanted to present it from a new angle by exploring how that desire to assimilate impacts intergenerational bonds.

In terms of craft, I aimed to move beyond the metaphorical use of fugal terms and concepts to make the piece resemble a fugue itself. Each passage in the story, though separated by years, is connected by the grandmother-granddaughter bond it depicts, similar to how appearances of the subject and countersubject link different sections of a fugue. My prose conveys distinct emotions by presenting images rather than thoughts, much like the changes in tonality that impart several moods within the same piece. And, by maintaining an unchanging syntax throughout, I generate a pulse, a rhythm, that carries the piece from beginning to end.

Ultimately, however, I chose to highlight one creative medium with another to remind readers of the power of art. As intangible and multifaceted as it is, art illuminates our shared humanity. When our words fail to moor us, there will always be our melodies, going on and on.


ANNABEL LI is a graduating high school senior from Vancouver, Canada. Her work has been recognized by The Walrus and appears or is forthcoming in Fractured Lit and Frontier Poetry. When not writing, you can find her skiing or training her dog. She hopes you have a wonderful day.