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Read The Whole Thing: Laura Blumenfeld on Teresa McGovern

October 22, 2012

Dog Ear Consultants

Teresa McGovern (center) in a Washington Post photo

Laura Blumenfeld’s 1995 piece on the passing of George McGovern’s daughter Teresa—reprinted of the occasion of McGovern’s death—is heartbreaking.

What’s great about it, though, is that tells a very emotional, very sad story without being overwrought. That’s a great lesson for writers: trust your readers to understand the tragedy of events and narratives—they don’t need our cues to feel.

The closing lines:

She dropped her scarf in a tire tread and lurched 10 more feet. She circled. She staggered. And finally she sank down in seven inches of snow.

The snow cooled her skin, sent shivers through her. After a while, if she felt anything at all, she felt warm. That is how it happens. Her heart sped up, trying to generate heat. That is how it happens too. A final, desperate rush of blood to the skin. The heat melted the snow around her, all the way down to the grass. But soon her heartbeat grew faint, and then it stopped. She was just one body and there was too much snow, only so much warmth fighting so much cold.

Great storytelling often happens when the writer happily takes a backseat to the story.

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