1. a trying-out … placing a variety of pressures on each essay’s titular subject, seeing what happens, where it leads … form is determined by the action of a restless mind
2. like Barthes, exploring middle ground between autobiography and criticism, imbuing collective experience of culture with intimacy, vulnerability, even if merely by virtue of subject selection … critical unpacking of shared/common behavior … housesitting becomes occasion for reflection on “commensalism” and the “citational,” etc.
3. certain propriety about syntax, tone … implied author and the “man of letters”
4. closed-book constraint is refreshing in part because there’s not that excessive referentiality that’s become so common among lyric essays
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Discussed in Non/Fiction:
A great essay about the memoir in the modern age that anyone working in fiction or nonfiction should read. (What are un-bendable facts? Where does lying end and art begin? Fact ≠ Truth.)
One of the assigned readings that we didn’t talk about was Jo Anne Beard’s Werner. Excellently strange essay. Would have liked to hear someone’s opinion on it. (It’s in the Best American Essay edited by DF Wallace if you’ve got that on your bookshelf and want to read it and report back to me. No pressure.)
Writing Assignment: Write a short piece (or essay or story) that responds to the title, “The Use of Nonfiction.”
Lethem’s Masterclass was full of zingers. Lots of furious note taking and laughter.
Here’s an idea: What if Wikipedia means the death of post-modern uncertainness? What if Wikipedia necessitates the end of the novel of facts, the novel that is freckled with reportage? Lethem said something to the effect of “putting a fact in your novel is almost a wasted line,” considering that anyone can look up almost anything at any time on the internet.
We mostly talked about Terry Castle’s My Heroine Christmas and The White Album by Joan Didion. Both awesome.
Read by 2/9: Out of Sheer Rage by Jeff Dyer, which looks fun because I took a killer DHL survey my first semester here and I am still digesting
A very smart woman I know started this site called Books That Saved My Life and it’s pretty self explanatory. She pusblishes people’s essays about particular books of books that have saved or have the capacity to save someone’s life. It’s still new, but there are already some good essays up, one of my favorites being Fan Letters to Judy Blum by CJ Evans.
I think she’s looking for more essays, so open that word document titled “LoveSongtoWhiteNoise?” and polish that sucker up.