‘In The Woods’ by Mary Robison

In The Woods by Mary Robison, 1984

The magic trick:

Summing up an entire marriage in a single paragraph

Another great example of Robison conjuring a world in a thousand words.

She’s particularly efficient here in summing up an entire marriage in a paragraph. It’s just enough to frame our narrator’s here and now at her sister’s farm with context to inform the story stakes and emotional malaise.

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

The selection:

In the weeks before my stay at the farm, I had been awake too much. Whenever I did sleep, what ugly dreams! One I remember was of me roller-skating down cement hill after hill, no way to stop. Marcus, my husband, and I lived in a three-bedroom, all-electric condominium north of Chicago. Marcus, an architect with a pretty good downtown firm, looked as if he could have been my dad or even my grandfather, with his prematurely white hair and silvery beard. Whenever we were in a place where someone might see us together – even if we just stepped out onto our second-floor balcony for a whiff of the morning – Marcus had to have his arm low on the back of my waist, or his hand on the back of my neck, almost in a chokehold, announcing to everyone that I was in fact his. To me, that was sadder and a bigger problem that his skirt-chasing.

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