Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Best American Essays 1986

from the diary: “Monday 8/17/87

“Spent most of the day in house, watch TV, read. Finished bk of interviews [Against the Grain] & 1986 Best American Essays, many of which I really dint read cuz they wuz much too boring.

“I finally did go down to the bookstore to buy blank books. Got a couple. Also bought a book of gay short stories. I haven’t bought a book to read in ages and ages. Especially new. When was the last time? Maybe years. I buy comic books[;] graphic novels might be called books. Otherwise I haven’t bought a new book in forever. And haven’t bought a used book in ages either – months & months.”

I loathed writing essays in high school. I still flinch at the word. The creation of an essay, according to what I was taught, was painful, slow, mechanical, artificial, unfriendly, and ugly. How could reading one be any different? I certainly enjoy much nonfiction writing, but I refuse to believe anything good could be called an "essay".

OK, yes, my antipathy has mitigated over the years. My favorite take on it was a writer saying s/he felt reassured by the origin of the word “essay”, which, the writer claimed, started out meaning “attempt”. Where was the pressure if what you were writing was called, from the get-go, an “attempt”?

Teacher’s red pen?

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