Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I was told there'd be cake

It's hard to find good thought-provoking essays these days, but I'm certainly not the first to come to this conclusion. This month, Cristina Nehring's essay in Utne magazine, entitled "Why Essays are so Damned Boring," doesn't delve too far below the surface of this phenomenon, but her reasoning makes perfect sense. Basically, she says that essayists today are turning out (and editors are only printing) self-involved meditations on minor choices in life. The dramatic questions, the large-as-life issues are being passed over in favor of the documentation of small incidents (like a quiet evening spent at home). It's safer to print the petty things, it's easier to write about petty things and with Americans' shortened attention span, a quick essay recapping one's day is faster reading than an in-depth essay on the meaning of life.

I like Sloane Crosley. I like the language she uses and the way she can twist words slyly to fit her needs. I think she will mature into an excellent novelist or science writer. She can capture feelings and explain theories clearly and with a light touch. For example, regarding volunteerism: "Of course I had considered volunteering. I think that once you know what something is, you have considered it. I'm far too solipsistic not to apply myself to every scenario that crosses my path. I remember the day I found out what an enema was, what spelunking was, that Asian women plucked their underarm hair, that the Golden Gate Bridge was an iconic springboard for suicides. I immediately considered jumping off it" (117).

Unfortunately, in this collection all you can see is her harmless self-absorption and her shallow magazine-styled way of writing that has served her well in her career. I struggled to finish this, putting it down for weeks between essays.

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