American Writers, Supplement V by Jay Parini

By Jay Parini

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ANN BEATTIE / 27 In his way, Charles is a great American dreamer, and as such he is created in the mold of Jay Gatsby, the most famous American dreamer of all. The parallels Beattie draws between Charles' quest for Laura and Gatsby's quest for Daisy are explicit and playful. " "Of course the light will be on. " But Charles wants to believe he is not really like Gatsby. "Gatsby waited all his life, and then Daisy slipped away. Charles has only been waiting for two years, and he'll get her back.

I probably saw a lot of things that other kids didn't see because I was alone. Being integrated into an adult world happened very early on in my life, and it made me a watcher. " She was, she has said, "an extremely shy person back then," but she read, drew, and wrote stories and was a generally happy child, until she started public high school. Uninspired by her classes there, and generally depressed, she graduated in the bottom tenth of her class. Luckily, her father had a connection at American University, or she might not have been able to go to college at all.

In comparison with her later novels, which are more elaborately constructed, the progress of Chilly Scenes of Winter is linear. Like much of her early work, and especially her short stories, which were often written in a few hours, the novel was composed very quickly, the rough draft reportedly finished in three weeks. Also like many of the short stories, but like none of the other novels, Chilly Scenes of Winter is written in the present tense. Effortless and immediate as the narration may seem, the selection of detail and the jumps from one idea to the next are subtly calibrated.

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