Faye Rapoport DesPres

News and notes

I wanted to pop onto the blog quickly this morning to offer some kudos and a few links. First, I want to congratulate Jim Kennedy, Angela Foster, Jina Simmons and Seth Edwards, and all of the other students who graduated from Pine Manor College’s Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing a week ago. Jim, Angie, Jina and Seth started the program just before I graduated, so I was lucky enough to share a number of workshops with them. They are a talented group, and I look forward to seeing their work in print in the days and years to come.

I also wanted to share a link to Michael Steinberg’s article, “The Person To Whom Things Happened: Finding the Inner Story in Personal Narratives” in Prime Number Magazine. As always, Mike’s take on craft is valuable not only to personal essayists, but to anyone writing in the first person, or really to any writer. Prime Number Magazine’s new issue also includes new poetry, fiction and nonfiction from a variety of other writers, including Karen Donovan, Maura O’Brien, and Michael Milburn, and features a drama piece by Robert Moulthrop.

Writer Cindy Zelman has posted her own review of Meg Tuite’s “Domestic Apparition,” which I reviewed briefly on this blog recently. Cindy’s viewpoint is worth checking out here.

I’m about half-way through Ned Stuckey-French’s new book, “The American Essay in the American Century.” I couldn’t be more impressed with the depth of the research and thought that went into this text. As an essayist who is relatively new to the genre, it is fascinating to learn about the history of personal essays and the cultural and political changes that drove their evolution, especially in America. New essayists tend to take for granted the flexibility and possibility the genre presents, as well as its basic literary relevance, but these were not always a given. The book, so far, echoes something that has been coming to light for me in a number of arenas. I believe we have experienced a great loss as human beings as we have moved further from nature and taking time for work, thought, and general effort, and toward lives governed by fast-paced technology and the desire for ease. This trend has affected literature, and specifically the personal essay, in ways I never thought about carefully before reading Ned’s book.

I think that’s it for now — it’s been about a hundred degrees and humid all week on the East Coast, and we’re looking forward to a promised break in the summer heat tomorrow. Last night I stepped outside in the late evening and caught site of two young skunks. They were playing together, rolling down a little hill that slopes downward from the fence on the southern side of our yard. I watched them for a while, just flashes of white and black and big, bushy tails as they pounced on each other.

I hope I never forget to slow down, and take plenty of time to experience life, both on and off the page.

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