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.
wan and tearful, so stricken with homesickness she could not eat the awful food and finally had to be taken home by her parents, to the envy of the rest of us. Pitched in a desolate scrub-acre miles from Lake Ontario, a squalid nest of weatherworn cabins lacking electricity and indoor plumbing, Bible camp had twice-daily prayer meetings, Bible study hours each afternoon, singing of hymns each evening—activities of stupefying dullness which I remember as if they had happened to another person. I
I learned what had happened. My first reaction had been resentment, that that girl (who was not a friend of Cynthia Heike) could have presumed such familiarity with my friend. 13. ASSIDUOUSLY WE PRACTICED THE Bach/Schumann piece vfor the spring recital. Each alone, and at Cynthia’s house after school. Weeks in succession. At home on our dull-toned upright piano that made me impatient, its tones were so dull and shallow. Several keys stuck. I complained that the piano needed tuning and my
certain voices, though not all—I shivered as if my very soul had been touched. I felt that “Joyce Carol” was a very special name for it sounded in my ears musical and lithesome; it did not sound heavy, harsh, dull. I knew that my parents had named me, and that their naming of me was special to them. I think I recall that my mother had seen the name “Joyce” in a newspaper and had liked the name because it seemed to her a happy-sounding name. But both my parents had named me. My father who loved
carelessly but very carefully. With love. MY HIGH SCHOOL FRIENDS were nothing short of astonished when I finally told them, as I’d been reluctant to tell them for months, that my mother was going to have a baby in June. “But your mother is too old!”—one of my friends said tactlessly. Was my mother even forty? I did not want to think that she was old. Having to tell others of my mother’s pregnancy made me painfully self-conscious. I felt my face burn unpleasantly as my girlfriends plied me
captives of the canon.) And afterward walking back to our residence with Marianna who had seemed increasingly distracted lately, complaining of the cold, worrying about a paper she was writing for Eccles, talking compulsively, very different from the young woman I’d met on my first day in Madison, back in September. Though I would have been shocked to know it, this would be the last time I spoke with Marianna Churchland. Within a day or two she would have moved out of Barnard Hall and departed