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Day 2

Pages 11-29 (through "The more she saw of the Provincetown school, the more she favored grisailles.")

July 24, 2020 by Elizabeth McCracken

A relief to shift into Lou’s head at the top of page 11. I believe utterly in Maytree, but I find—as Lou herself does—that he takes up a lot of the oxygen. —Elizabeth

The way Dillard describes the physicality of her characters is strange & wonderful. She’s as interested in physical description as Dickens, though she does it in the opposite way: not encyclopedic, but a whole soul impressionistic portrait. —Elizabeth

If ever somebody tells you that all adverbs are bad, please show them this use of “mysteriously.” —Elizabeth

“Mysteriously, some years ago she earned the first degree MIT awarded a female in architecture.”

Dillard knows her characters so well the smallest moments characterize: Maytree keeping an eye on the poison ivy while showing off, Lou mocking him but only in her head, “as if bored” but not actually bored. —Elizabeth

“In her mind she replied, as if bored, Oh can you.”

Anyone who has ever walked through the dunes to a dune shack has wondered this. Dillard never forgets the physical tragic slapstick comedy of the human body.

“Lou knew it would have an outhouse. But where.”

On page 18, there’s a double space & we land in Lou’s past. Time is odd in this book, but I would follow Dillard anywhere. —Elizabeth

Annie Dillard loves love, wondering & writing about it; Lou wondering she would rather have love intact, or to love perfectly, resounds through the entire book. —Elizabeth

Of course the concertina-playing Primo Dial runs away for “winsome twins who played glockenspiels.” No other instruments would work so well; I can see the foul trio, making music & also whoopee. —Elizabeth

Dillard is a beloved writing teacher, & I take the parenthetical aside on page 22 about Maytree’s fear of clarity as a fond, chiding note to her students as well as possibly her own younger self. —Elizabeth

In one sentence: the pleasure of seeing the conical cups, the pleasure of the word “conical,” the pleasure of knowing this little prankish sadistic part of Deary’s personality. —Elizabeth

“She handed out conical Dixie cups no one could set down.”

It is taking all my will power not to just point out Dillard’s weird & perfect verbs. Here’s two in one phrase. “…amber drop earrings that suggested her ears were draining.” —Elizabeth

I like to think, & it isn’t impossible, that the joke about Reevadare’s name is also an allusion to Alexander Chee, a student of Dillard’s. —Elizabeth

Cornelius toasting with the Santayana quote—“If pain could have saved us, we should long ago have been saved”—is pretty close to the bone in 2020. —Elizabeth

Time in The Maytrees is a lot like the dunes, shifting & palpable. When Dillard lists all of Deary’s marriages, we learn about her but we also fly through time, to catch us up with Deary’s love life. —Elizabeth

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