Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nichole's Pick

You guys sure made it tough on me this week. I narrowed down my absolute favorites to three pieces and for days, I’ve been trying to select just one. Each time I thought I had finally decided, my mind kept going back to one truly spectacular piece.

I have chosen Crayon Wrangler’s “Bitter Memories” for my pick. Her words kept echoing in my mind this week and I couldn’t shake the magical, yet melancholy feeling of her piece.

I loved that while pathos was woven throughout, it wasn’t heavy-handed, but rather was used carefully and balanced out beautifully.

What I loved most of all, however, was her deft use of anthropomorphism throughout this beautifully haunting piece...

On the second bite I was able to declare with no reservations that this peach was the worst I had ever tasted. I spit the fuzzy skin that tickled my tongue a little too much onto the ground. Surfacing as though they heard a siren song too faint for my ears, ants eagerly discovered and celebrated my waste. A trail of bitten peach casualties behind me on the grass. The summer hadn’t been particularly hot and there had been no Biblical plague of insects on the orchard, but the peaches had gone bad.

There are a couple of problems with this opening line. Firstly, I would avoid opening a story with a preposition. Secondly, I would make the sentence active, rather than passive. Reworked, it could read, “I declared on the second bite, with no reservations, this peach was the worst I had ever tasted.”

Since my grandfather’s diagnosis, everything on his land mirrored his own life fading. Friendly animals that clucked and mooed welcomes were long gone. The grass that softened the landing steps of my running feet seemed sharper and more painful. Weeds choked the garden and blistered under a sun that felt as if it glared down in disapproval. Fruit trees bore their usual offering but with a grudge that said their heart wasn’t in their work. The peaches, along with life; had lost the sweetness.

I suspect that she meant to use a comma in that last line instead of a semi-colon.

I love the use of anthropomorphism in this second paragraph. The sun glaring in disapproval and the trees holding a grudge are excellent images that grab me and pull me in.

Many harvesting seasons were behind me and I felt as though peach juice intertwined in my blood somehow. I surveyed the withering orchard and my heart sunk. Most everything had flourished under my grandfather’s watch. I had sampled everything that he had lovingly coaxed from the ground, bushes and trees; it was always perfect. Reaching out I rubbed a leaf from the peach tree between my fingers. Untrained and slightly ignorant of being a horticulturist, my only conclusion was that the trees were in mourning and missed their Master’s touch.

The word everything is used twice. I would change the second everything to all.

I would rework, “Untrained and slightly ignorant of being a horticulturist,” as I find it clunky and confusing. Perhaps she could simply write, “My hands were untrained in the art of growing, my only conclusion…”

The use of the anthropomorphic trees mourning and missing their Master is gorgeous.

Perhaps one day someone would live on this farm and once again bring sweetness and beauty back. There might even be a little girl who would sit among bushels of peaches beside her grandfather on a covered porch cooled by a forgiving breeze. She would delight in the velvety texture of a peach’s flesh and would be able to work out her preteen angst under the silent companionship. For a moment under a peach tree she would be able to shed her insecurities and twirl with an imagined partner; declaring life as sweet as the peaches. Sticky, sweet peach syrup would adorn her lips as she kissed her grandparents good night and was given the freedom of being a child a little while longer.

I would change “would be able” to “could.” It’s good practice to avoid using “to be able,” as it is passive and weakens a sentence.

Until then, I will mourn with the trees and leave a trail of bitter tasting memories behind me.

This piece will stick with me for a long time…I truly loved it.

What do you think of Crayon Wrangler’s piece? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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