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Exploring the art of prose

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Tag: Musicality



Author’s Note

As part of an in-progress story collection, Goodle Days: Connected Stories, “Landscape Grown Cold” honors a John Hartford song by the same name. The central character, Susan Dunn, waits for her husband to return home from a love affair while recalling the assaults and misfortunes of the women she has known.

How I approached craft in this text and those surrounding it in the collection differed from my usual composition process, in that it has been largely musical and completely nonlinear. For example, in this piece, I wrote with a similar cadence to that of Hartford’s music, shifting between present observation and past memory. This technique enabled the form of the story to represent Dunn’s sense of confinement and isolation, as well as how her situation brings her to the limits of her sanity.

I wrote “Landscape Grown Cold” so economically that I left no room for transition, juxtaposing elegance with the grotesque, taking big leaps at tight turns. Dunn’s walking between rooms, her drinking and smoking, demonstrate that time is passing, but there is no movement. She is alone but not independent, relying on the arrival of her husband, Robert, to bring her out of her stasis. There is only potential energy—things can happen, but nothing does.

She feels incapable, even, of affecting nature’s microcosms. She equates seeing squirrels interact aggressively outside her window to the violence endured by the women around her. Using these plights to justify the state of her marriage, she repeats the bridling and dismissive assertion, “It could be worse.”

The theme of paralysis runs through this piece and the rest of the collection, characterized by a prose style in which a character stands still, and the world happens around them. The text itself must animate when the characters cannot, springing between humor and tragedy at every bend.

 


CAROLYNN MIREAULT is a recipient of the 2022 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award in Literature and the 2022 Florence Engel Randall Fiction Award. She holds an MFA from Boston University, where she served as a Leslie Epstein Fellow and the Senior Teaching Fellow. Her work has appeared in Cutleaf, Orca, Pithead Chapel, and Glassworks, among other venues. Find her on Instagram @carolynnmireault.