The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age
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Written with the raw honesty and poignant insight that were the hallmarks of her acclaimed bestseller A Widow’s Story, an affecting and observant memoir of growing up from one of our finest and most beloved literary masters.
The Lost Landscape is Joyce Carol Oates’ vivid chronicle of her hardscrabble childhood in rural western New York State. From memories of her relatives, to those of a charming bond with a special red hen on her family farm; from her first friendships to her earliest experiences with death, The Lost Landscape is a powerful evocation of the romance of childhood, and its indelible influence on the woman and the writer she would become.
In this exceptionally candid, moving, and richly reflective account, Oates explores the world through the eyes of her younger self, an imaginative girl eager to tell stories about the world and the people she meets. While reading Alice in Wonderland changed a young Joyce forever and inspired her to view life as a series of endless adventures, growing up on a farm taught her harsh lessons about sacrifice, hard work, and loss. With searing detail and an acutely perceptive eye, Oates renders her memories and emotions with exquisite precision, transporting us to a forgotten place and time—the lost landscape of her youth, reminding us of the forgotten landscapes of our own earliest lives.
mound of rubble were all that remained. Soon such one-room schoolhouses will be recalled, if at all, only in photographs: links with a mythopoetic “American frontier past” that, when it was lived, seemed to us, who lived it, simply life. PIPER CUB “DON’T BE AFRAID. DADDY is right here.” Yet, Daddy was not visible to me, for Daddy was behind me. It did not seem natural to me that my father, who always drove our car from the position of authority behind the steering wheel, was seated behind me
reply. Out of nowhere had come this attack. As soon as Dr. Heike had settled into his dinner, conversation had seemed ordinary, even dull; the Heikes had been talking together about some domestic incident, and I had scarcely listened. But now, I was stricken to the heart. I should have protested—But Clarence isn’t Millersport! It’s miles away . . . Still, Dr. Heike was essentially correct about my evasiveness. If the fire had been in Millersport, I would have told Dr. Heike that nothing much
the same time, and still retain the ability to function. “HOW STRANGE THIS IS! We’re all together—here.” Not I but another young woman spoke, in a way of childlike wonder tinged with something like irony. But a very subtle irony, for “Marianna Mason Churchland” (a close approximation of her quaintly lovely name) was a very subtle person. Marianna was from a small town near Raleigh, North Carolina; her melodic accent was enchanting, especially to one from the flat nasal terrain of western New
side of the barn, stained with something dark. And surrounding the stained block, chicken feathers. Sticky-stained feathers in dark clotted clumps. No chickens scratched and pecked in the dirt here. Even Mr. Rooster kept his distance. And the little girl. GRANDMA WAS THE ONE, you know. The one who killed the chickens. No! I did not know. Of course you must have known, Joyce. You must have seen—many times. . . . No. I didn’t know. I never saw. But . . . I never saw. In later years she
that something violent would happen very quickly, as such violent acts happened quickly in Detroit, altering the best-intentioned lives forever. How we live what seems random, which we experience as fate. A writer’s work is a codified transcript of the writer’s life. The (public) work is a record of the (private) life. As years pass, however, and the private/secret life is forgotten except in outline, even the key to the code is but haphazardly recalled, for past secrets are never so