Writing stories that move like poems
Maryse Meijer’s debut was a short story collection. For her second book, the Chicago author experimented with new forms. “I really was tired of struggling with the connective tissue that you always have to pay attention to when you’re writing fiction,” Meijer said. “I was reading a lot of poetry, and I just admired how easily they could just cut to the idea or image or feeling that was the most potent. I wanted to borrow some of the things I saw poets doing for myself.”
In “Northwood,” a novella set mostly in a remote forest cabin, Meijer stitches together prose and verse into an unnerving, mesmerizing portrait of a violent relationship. The book borrows imagery and ideas from fairy tales, Greek mythology, and Tarot.
Meijer learned to read Tarot cards while on a 24-hour bus ride to her first residency at Yaddo, the writers’ colony in upstate New York. Her twin sister had suggested the medieval fortune-telling art as a way to break the ice — “when you bring out a deck at a party, suddenly you have 10 new best friends who will tell you all their secrets,” Meijer added. “It’s such a good tool for fiction writers.”
She’s surprised that some reviewers have described the book’s central relationship as abusive, Meijer said, “because I think every relationship between men and women under patriarchy and capitalism is inscribed by violence. You can’t escape the fact that we’re all steeped in misogyny.” The old stories she mined for “Northwood” are rife with violence as well. “Fairy tales and all of these stories we have about what it means to fall in love, a lot of it is about consumption, about consuming each other. And the person being consumed is a woman.”
Meijer will read at 7 p.m. Monday at Harvard Book Store.
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