On my second read of The Maytrees in four weeks, I’m slowly ingesting the writing. Here are six things I learned, or was reminded of, by reading Annie Dillard [spoiler alert]:

1) To add telling to showing with an unexpected sentence:

“Their intimacy’s height so far was drinking from the same canteen.”

2) To use images:

“Affixed to Deary was six-year-old Marie Koday, fist like a clothespin on Deary’s skirts.”

“In her company he wrapped himself in misery like a robe.”

“She found herself holding one end of a love.”

3) To choose actions that add tension and say more than words:

“Brandy he drinks? The tenth-anniversary-present brandy from four years ago we’ve sipped on Christmas mornings only?”

4) To use humor to deflect melodrama:

“Never her Maytree, who loved her, as he just unsaid.”

“If this was not shaping up to be Maytree’s finest hour, it might as well be hers.”

5) To think associatively and let what the character sees reflect her state of mind:

“Do not drive in breakdown lane, said the Route six signs. Do not break down in driving lane. The sea poured over the stone lip at Gibraltar and emptied.”

6) To use echos:

Petie: “Did his brain contain a pack of selves like Musketeers, each smaller and farther back and waving a sword?”

Lou (11 pages later): “How she wished she could see all those displaced Petes and Peties once more!

Final post on The Maytrees (for the foreseeable future anyway) coming up: the relationship of structure to content

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