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Publication Date



UM campus only

Embargo Period


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Lester Goran

Second Committee Member

Jane Alison

Third Committee Member

Lois Wolfe Markham


Notes on a Foundation Crumbling takes place in a fishing village in contemporary coastal New England. Paul Mallory is a veteran who falls in love with and marries a young painter, Emma Moore. Emma’s childhood home has been condemned to be demolished. In an effort to prove his love, Mallory uproots the house, tows it by water to the village harbor, and works to replant it. As Mallory works to renovate the house, Emma reconnects with a former lover, Liam Flynn, who is now raising his five-year-old brother Danny (who is sick with pneumonia). For a time the four characters form a close-knit albeit unlikely family. The house provides the novel with its underlying structure; its motion, construction, and problems coincide with those of the group dynamic. As the situation deteriorates and the project fails, Emma leaves with Danny, but the emblem of obsession lingers and burns. At the heart of this story are the obsessions that determine what characters do and how tragedies unfold. It is a story about the compulsion to try to know and to own someone, and the impossibility of doing just that. It is a story about the seductive danger and inevitability of the narratives that we construct around ourselves and around those we love.


Notes on a Foundation Crumbling.