The Put-Ons Of Personal Essayists

The Put-Ons Of Personal Essayists-87
Excuse the rather basic transportation lesson, but it explains my first suggestion.An essay needs a lighted sign right up front telling the reader where they are going.

Excuse the rather basic transportation lesson, but it explains my first suggestion.An essay needs a lighted sign right up front telling the reader where they are going.

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All but the last few seconds had vanished from the vast scroll of her past. The problem is that there are certain things readers already know, and that would include the idea that the loss of a loved one to death or dementia is a deep wound, that it seems not fair when such heartbreak occurs, and that we oftentimes find ourselves regretting not having spent more time with the lost loved one.

Essays exploring a loved one’s decline into dementia or the painful loneliness of a parent’s death are among the most commonly seen by editors of magazines and judges of essay contests. These reactions seem truly significant when they occur in our own lives, and revisiting them in our writing allows us to experience those powerful feelings once again.

Otherwise, the reader will be distracted and nervous at each stop along the way, unsure of the destination, not at all able to enjoy the ride.

Now there are dull ways of putting up your lighted sign: Shortly after I published my first autobiographical essay seven years ago, my mother wrote me a letter pleading with me never again to write about our family life. Our family life is private.” And besides: “Why do you need to tell the gringos about how ‘divided’ you feel from the family?

Likewise, identifying the missteps in other writers’ work makes you better at identifying the missteps in your own.

Remember the Streetcar Tennessee Williams’ wonderful play, , comes from a real streetcar in New Orleans and an actual neighborhood named Desire.

They are constantly trying to lift the surface layer, to see what interesting ideas or questions might lie beneath.

To illustrate, let’s look at another exemplary essay, “Silence the Pianos,” by Floyd Skloot.

Though this streetcar no longer runs, there is still a bus called Desire in New Orleans, and you’ve certainly seen streetcars or buses in other cities with similar, if less evocative, destination indicators: Uptown, Downtown, Shadyside, West End, Prospect Park.

People need to know what streetcar they are getting onto, you see, because they want to know where they will be when the streetcar stops and lets them off.

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