Apt then that her next book parades this scope so proudly.
Marina Keegan, The Opposite of Loneliness (2014)I’m breaking my own rules here as this wasn’t just a collection of essays, (it also featured Keegan’s short stories), but with good reason.
Published posthumously after Keegan was tragically killed in a car accident just five days after she graduated from Yale in 2012, The Opposite of Loneliness showcases the small but perfectly formed body of work Keegan left behind.
Hers is a particular brand of essay: writing at its most crystal clear, subject matter at its most slippery and interesting.
Katie Roiphe, In Praise of Messy Lives (2012)The essays in Katie Roiphe’s In Praise of Messy Lives were described by Dwight Garner in his New York Times review as “lean and literate”, a description so good, I don’t see how I can improve on it.
Writing a good essay involves a process akin to alchemy; the base metal of intimate, individual experience is transmuted into a shining nugget of universal truth, the meaning of which resonates with a larger audience.
Famous Essayist And Their Essay
“I never sit down to write anything personal unless I know the subject is going to go beyond my own experience and address something larger and more universal,” explains essayist and columnist Megan Daum in a recent interview in the New Yorker.“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman,” writes Lena Dunham in the introduction to her essays-cum-memoir Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” But does simply announcing one has a story automatically legitimize its telling?Surely there needs to be some kind of discerning critical judgment involved?“Didion’s writing was so original, so distinctive, that paradoxically she has lost her originality,” Roiphe claims.“She has become mundane, traces of her sharp personal lyricism scattered through newspapers and magazines.” All the same, it’s still worth reading anything and everything Didion writes, particularly her first, and probably most famous collection, Slouching Towards Bethlehem; works inspired, for the most part, by Didion’s life in California that together paint a vivid portrait of American life in the ’60s, all crystalized through Didion’s unflinching eyes.She’s also a writer who pushes the already pliable boundaries of the essay form—The Faraway Nearby (2013), ostensibly a memoir, but actually a book that covers its own near exhaustive encyclopedia of topics, was eloquently described by writer Leslie Jamison as “an experiment in applying the associative liberties of the essay genre to an entire book.”Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams (2014)Jamison’s keen eye for the magic of Solnit’s work can be accounted for in part by the fact that she is an intrepid practitioner of the confessional form herself. S.), concerned itself with the realm of distinctly intimate experience—her heart surgery, an abortion, and the time a stranger punched her in the face—but, as the title suggests, these are essays that don’t simply turn the private into the communal, they explore the very notion of the act that lies at the heart of good essay writing: of aligning one’s experience with that of others, and vice versa.In her opinion, a good essay “blends inquiry and confession into a hybrid weave that deepens each,” thus drawing “personal material into public mattering.” The Empathy Exams, Jamison’s first collection (though two further compendia: Archive Lush, which has been described as a “radical reinvention of the addiction memoir,” and Ghost Essays: On Love and Loneliness, on haunting and obsession, have already been acquired by both Granta in the U. “Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us—a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain—it’s also a choice we make,” Jamison explains: “to pay attention, to extend ourselves.With pieces on the giants who precede her (that on Didion quoted above, and Sontag), those in which she wades around in the territory of gender politics in which she made her name (her first book The Morning After: Fear, Sex and Feminism  explored the culpability of women in the rise of suspected campus date rape incidents, inspiring, unsurprisingly, some hostile critical responses), musings on literature (from the figure of Shakespeare’s wife, Ann Hathaway, to the modern incest scene in fiction), and the problems of the contemporary child-centric middle-class world, to name but a smattering of Roiphe’s topics, it’s a collection that both celebrates and questions our messy, modern lives and the way we live them.Rebecca Solnit, Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness (2014)Solnit is one of the most prolific writers on my list—the author of 15 books and countless essays—and one of the most far-reaching in terms of the subjects with which she concerns herself, too.Instead, I’m inclined to catalog my experiences and turn them over in my head until some kind of theme emerges and I feel I can link the personal banalities to something larger and worth telling.” Despite their apparent differences of opinion, this actually sounds decidedly familiar to Jamison (and Wampole’s) description of the genre, but one in which Daum—“for all my ambivalence about mining my own life for material, I can’t seem to quit for very long,” she admits in the introduction to her forthcoming volume The Unspeakable—is well aware she’s treading a tightrope.As she explains in a recent interview with the New Yorker: “To me, having ‘material’ for an essay means not only having something to write about but also having something interesting and original to say about whatever that might be.” Fundamentally, the subjects of her new essays are deeply and intimately personal—the death of her mother, the grief she feels when her dog dies, the time she nearly died herself, her decision to not have children, one made at the same time she was working as a court appointed mediator for children in the foster care system—but as she explains, “I wasn’t going to just write about my mother dying or my dog dying or me getting sick and almost dying.