"Snow" by Ann Beattie

17Feb05

In both of the short stories by Ann Beattie that I have read—this one and “Janus”—Beattie uses the environment to delicately define a relationship. In “Snow” the lovers’ conflicting memories of a snowy winter reflect their incompatibility.

The woman remembers the life and magic behind everything surrounding her: “…finding some of the house’s secrets, like wallpaper underneath wallpaper,” “When we painted the walls yellow, I thought of the bits of grape that remained underneath and imagined the wine popping through, the way some plants can tenaciously push through anything,” “you, in the white towel turban, like a crazy king of snow.”

The man, however, remembers only the coldness and the darkness, as it creeps into the environment and into their relationship: “You remember that the cold settled in stages, that a small curve of light was shaved from the moon night after night, until you were no longer surprised the sky was black….”

The few paragraphs that compose this story are quite poetic. Beattie seems to have mastered the skin-and-bones, pared-down writing style that we in the West seem to value.

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