‘Cold And Sunny’ by Maeve Brennan

Cold And Sunny by Maeve Brennan, 1981

The magic trick:

Using perfect details to bring a scene to life in a single paragraph

Not a pure short story, per se. It was published as a “Talk Of The Town” for The New Yorker, the final TNY piece of Maeve Brennan’s life.

But I love Maeve Brennan’s writing, and this has more of a short story to it than most short stories, so I count it.

She rambles a bit to start, charmingly, and then offers a brief memory of the Cherryfield Avenue house in Dublin she made famous in the best short stories of the prime period of her career. Here, it is the slightest reminiscence – literally, one paragraph. She is such a gifted writer, though. She doesn’t need much space. There is one detail that pops for me. She describes the light streaming out of an open door into the night. It’s perfect. Absolutely perfect.

And that’s quite a trick on Brennan’s part.

The selection:

On New Year’s Eve, something marvelous happened on our little street. It wasn’t called a street; it was called an avenue. Cherryfield Avenue. And it was closed at the far end – no “thru” traffic. What happened that New Year’s Eve was that in the late afternoon word went around from house to house that a minute or so before midnight we would all step out into our front gardens, or even into the street, leaving the front doors open, so that the light streamed out after us, and there we would wait to hear the bells ringing in the New Year. I nearly went mad with excitement and happiness. I know I jumped for joy. That New Year’s Eve was one of the great occasions of our lives.

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