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Jacob M. Appel
Jacob M. Appel, a graduate of the MFA program in fiction at New York University and the Harvard Law School, has taught most recently at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and the Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York City. His fiction has appeared in Agni, Colorado Review, StoryQuarterly, Southwest Review and elsewhere; his first full-length play, Arborophilia, received its world premiere at the Detroit Repertory Theatre in November. Jacob lives in New York City and can be found on the Internet at www.jacobmappel.com.
Of his prizewinning story, he says, "I am currently passing through that age when 'recovering' people from my youth holds a particular fascination for me: summer-camp playmates, childhood neighbors, middle school teachers, forgotten pen pals and—most of all—ex-girlfriends and should-have-been girlfriends and smoldering crushes who shattered my sixteen-year-old heart. What amazes me most is not how much has changed between me and these women, successful professionals and artists in their thirties and forties, often with devoted husbands and disarming children, but how much has remained the same. Or, to be more precise, how the very fact of having adored someone twenty years ago makes it possible to adore them today. I have a dear friend, an accomplished grandmother in her seventies, who recently told me of returning to her fiftieth high school reunion and suffering the same pangs of insecurity that she'd experienced as an eleventh grader in the 1950s. One of the great mysteries of life is the degree to which we are forever prisoners of our adolescent selves—that there are 'lost loves' who at eighty will still render us as giddy and self-conscious we were at fourteen. If 'Creve Coeur' is my fitful attempt to grapple with the sway that my own earlier years still hold over me, I suppose Pamella Stanton is a composite of the many women I once loved in secret.
"This story, like all of my stories, began with a place. There are dozens of Creve Coeurs along the New England coast from Bridgeport to Portsmouth— [End Page 27] shrunken cities that might have grown into Bostons or New Havens but never did. When I was teaching in Providence, I loved to explore these old shipping and whaling communities and to soak up their sadness. They always seemed at their unhappiest during the Christmas season. Rather than masking the faded glory of their tidy Cape Cod bungalows and dilapidated Victorian mansions, the holiday light displays along their main streets—which often rivaled anything on display at Rockefeller Center—somehow managed to make the decline of these towns feel both tragic and inevitable. And that, at its core, is what this story is all about for me: inevitability. I still find myself wondering how Wade Dortmund will feel about Pamella in another fifty years—whether even then, knowing what he knows, a part of him won't still crave her approval."