a comment by Erica Jamieson (with a little inspiration from Alice McDermott)
“She sat on the edge of the bed. She wanted to take her glasses of, fling them across the room. To tear the new hat from her head and fling it, too. Put her hands to her scalp and peel off the homely face. Unbutton the dress, unbuckle the belt, remove the frail slip. She wanted to reach behind her neck and unhook the flesh from the bone, open it along the zipper of her spine, step out of her skin, and throw it to the floor. Back, shoulder, stomach, and breast. Trample it. Raise a fist to God for how he had shaped her in that first darkness; unlovely and unloved.”Alice McDermott From Someone
I was reading McDermott’s short story in the New Yorker Magazine on my Kindle Fire (best magazine app!) and was struck by this paragraph. In the over exhausted mantra that emerging writers chant “Show don’t tell” I was overwhelmed with the intense emotion shown in this writing. Although most good reading is a twisting exchange between showing and telling – was it Richard Bausch in a classroom at Breadloaf last summer who called the mantra an old saw? Reading this over and over again I am exhausted by Marie’s self hatred, her embarrassment over her short comings, over having dressed for the unexpected break up, over her looks, her body, her fate in life – there isn’t one among us who can’t relate to that feeling and yet never in the paragraph are we told she hated herself, or that she was embarrassed or disappointed.
Here is showing at its best. And I’m telling you – that’s the goal we should strive for in our own writing!
Feel free to comment with posts of other writings that have stopped you in your reading tracks…