Friday, November 4, 2011

The Next American Essay edited by John D'Agata

I wrote a thing the other day but it didn't work out. I say thing because I'm not too sure what it was exactly: story, poem, essay. The collection of essays in this book are very different in form, sometimes I thought that they might even be poems in disguise. They play with font and alignment and lists and words. Most of them are personal and that's what I like about them. I also learnt a lot about certain things, for example the colour black and the Midwest. In this book were essays by Joan Didion, David Antin, David Foster Wallace, Lydia Davis, Susan Sontag, Jamaica Kincaid, Sherman Alexie, Alexander Theroux and more. It made me more confused about what a poem/essay is, especially when the editor, John D'Agata started talking about lyrical essays (sort of an oxymoron) and how they sort of straddle the space between the subjective/personal essay and the objective/public one. But despite being unable to distinguish between all these forms I just like stuff more. That's more important, right? Shit I dunno. What was also really cool about this book was the essay D'Agata wrote all the way through. He gave little introductions before each essay which related and didn't to the different writers. He shared important information on the history of the essay; he talked about Cicero a lot and he also talked about himself and at the end he wrote an 'epilogue' which was a list of things to do today. Some of them were realistic and some of them weren't. It was very nice.

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