In her stories about the tightly cloistered world of women in the small-town south of the fifties and sixties, Moira Crone illustrates what Flannery O’Connor called “the realism of distances”—the ability to see “near things with their extensions of meaning and thus [see] far things close up.” Crone has the born fiction writer’s ability to lay out a tightly bounded world and create large moral dramas within it. Her frequent subject, the mythology around white southern womanhood, may have passed from history along with pastel shirtwaist dresses and magnolia blossoms, but the idea still matters because its extensions of meaning are still with us—and Crone doesn’t spare us the ominous implications of the strained, dreadful beauty of those women and the culture that bound itself to the task of keeping them protected. Like the women she writes about, Crone’s prose is diamond-polished—hard, cool, and elegant, with splendid flashes of comedy in the finely tuned dialogue. She gives us the point of view of both the darlings and the oddballs, and also explores the ambivalent position of Christian faith in the Jim Crow South within both black and white communities, sometimes a palliative, sometimes a source of moral courage unavailable from any other source.
Moira Crone was raised in the tobacco country of Eastern North Carolina and received degrees from Smith College and the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her works include story collections Dream State, and The Winnebago Mysteries, as well as a novel, A Period of Confinement. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Mademoiselle, Boston Sunday Globe, and Image, and has been selected among the “Year’s Best” four times for inclusion in New Stories From The South, from Algonquin. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College at Harvard, and the Louisiana Board of Regents. She won the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society Short Story Prize in 1992, and the Faulkner/Wisdom Award for Novella in 2004. Her book What Gets Into Us is due out in 2006. Her short novel, The Ice Garden, was featured in the Spring 2006 edition of Triquarterly. The former director of the creative writing program at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, she has taught at LSU for twenty years. She lives in New Orleans, is married to author Rodger Kamenetz, and is the mother of two daughters, Anya and Kezia Kamenetz.
The story of mine which appeared in Image issue 41, “Mr. Sender,” is part of What Gets Into Us, a novel-in-stories about intertwined lives in a single community in the Carolinas over the span of forty years, published this April. Also, for the last several years, I have been working on a dystopian novel, Elysiana, set in the year 2132 in southern Louisiana. The New Orleans I had imagined in the novel is a series of islands. At the time that Katrina struck, I was on a grant to complete the book. It was uncanny how some of the scenes of an inundated city I had imagined became reality, and for a while this gave me pause. Like many New Orleanians, I have now been through exile, and now return. I am presently in the process of finishing that novel, in the midst of this strange and unimaginable time. We have all shared the experience of seeing that we thought was settled—our homes, our loves, our jobs, our way of life—wasn’t settled at all. In some cases, these securities were completely washed away. I try to see part of the tragedy that has happened in my hometown as something that has shown us how vulnerable we are, our true nature. I have been writing down the stories people have been telling me—everyone has stories—for it helps to make wholes out of what has been broken. I think that will be my next project. [Editor’s note: you can see this vision in Moira’s 2016 short story “Pecos Bill.”]
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.