The Art Of The Personal Essay Lopate Pdf Viewer

Approaches abound to help us beneficially, enjoyably read fiction, poetry, and drama. Here, for the first time, is a book that aims to do the same for the essay. G. Douglas Atkins performs sustained readings of more than twenty-five major essays, explaining how we can appreciate and understand what this currently resurgent literary form reveals about the “art of living.”

Atkins's readings cover a wide spectrum of writers in the English language--and his readings are themselves essays, gracefully written, engaged, and engaging. Atkins starts with the earliest British practitioners of the form, including Francis Bacon, John Dryden, Alexander Pope, and Samuel Johnson. Transcendentalist writers Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are included, as are works by Americans James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and E. B. White. Atkins also provides readings of a number of contemporary essayists, among them Annie Dillard, Scott Russell Sanders, and Cynthia Ozick.

Many of the readings are of essays that Atkins has used successfully in the classroom, with undergraduate and graduate students, for many years. In his introduction Atkins offers practical advice on the specific demands essays make and the unique opportunities they offer, especially for college courses. The book ends with a note on the writing of essays, furthering the author's contention that reading should not be separated from writing.

Reading Essays continues in the tradition of such definitive texts as Understanding Poetry and Understanding Fiction. Throughout, Atkins reveals the joy, delight, grace, freedom, and wisdom of “the glorious essay.”

Phillip Lopate’s Art of the Personal Essay is a lovable pain in the ass. It’s lovable because it’s filled with delightful and surprising choices, such as E.B. White’s “The Ring of Time” and Junichiro Tanizaki’s “In Praise of Shadows” (the latter could be subtitled, “Everything you always wanted to know about Japanese toilets, but were afraid to ask”). Addison, Steele, Johnson, Woolf, Orwell (“Such, Such Were the Joys”– a great pick for those of us weary of the elephant), Natalia Ginzburg, James Baldwin, Mary McCarthy, Annie Dillard, Richard Rodriguez…

So, my beef has to do with organization and metadata. Of course, you’re thinking, she’s a librarian. No, dammit, I’m a reader, and it irks me no end to start an essay that doesn’t make it clear when and where it was first published! Don’t make me look that up! And where did you misplace the index, Mr. Lopate? Yes: no index. Apparently Lopate thinks two tables of contents–one by era and one by his own idiosyncratic topics–are reasonable substitutes for an index. Bad editor! No donut!

That said, Lopate’s intro is worth the price of admission, the bibliography at the end gets a nod of approval, and really, as collections go, this is quite a steal: over seventy essays, nearly all very high quality (the MFK Fisher was not a good example, but I had never read Hoagland on spanking, so that was a fair trade). Plus the paperback edition lies nicely flat while I’m reading–perfect for exercising, soup-drinking, earlobe-pulling, or other activities that mean one hand is free (including taking good notes).

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This was written by K.G. Schneider. Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2006, at 7:10 pm. Filed under FRL Spotlight Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

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