Category Archives: Essay

Books of greater minds: creases and ink notes

“And because I often fold down page corners and scribble in margins, it is best to keep me away from first editions.” – Annie Proulx, “Inspiration? Head Down the Back Road, and Stop for the Yard Sales,” Writers on Writing, pg. 186

Writers on Writing

Writers on Writing

Give me used books. Give me paperbacks with worn spines, with name and title cracked like old fresco. Give me hardcovers where the pages peel away from the binding, yet still find themselves together. Give me books with all of their pages. Give me first editions, second editions, anniversary editions, and editions you detest. Most importantly, give me a book where someone wrote comments in the margins, where someone underlined a vivid image, where text was annotated with stars and exclamation points. Continue reading

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What book would you choose?

“Well, look, I’m a lawyer too, and a woman, like your character, but” –and her expression became urgent as if she had clamped her hand to my arm–“the book was no help to me. It didn’t tell me how I should live my life.” – Rosellen Brown, “Characters’ Weaknesses Build Fiction’s Strengths,” Writers on Writing, p. 29

Writers on Writing

Writers on Writing

In the spring of 2009, my roommate and I enrolled in a philosophy class centered on utopias and dystopias. We had both agreed that the class seemed interesting, and it also fulfilled part of our core requirements for graduation.

While we had expected the class to involve lectures and discussions on philosophical terminology and arguments, we realized that the class was really an English literature class. We discussed the utopias or dystopias presented in books like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland. We examined societal and character flaws and strengths using plain language instead of modus ponens and modus tollens arguments. Our understanding of perfect harmony and perfect chaos came from fiction; we did not speak of real world examples of those who had sought to create utopias. Continue reading

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Notes on surviving

‘Since I survived that year,’ he always said, ‘I shall survive anything,’ – Things Fall Apart, pg. 19

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

I’ve been fortunate enough to not have to endure a year of absolutely terrible circumstances. Call it the ease of youth or call it luck, but the number of good days has outweighed the bad days for me. As I get older, that balance might shift toward the other end. It might not. Either way, the years will progress and I will have some bad days and some good days and I understand that.

Not everyone is so lucky. Continue reading

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Count to infinity

“I would count infinity by counting days that I’d have to wait. X = infinity, find the value for x. I’d count how many days I had left of high school. How long I’d have to spend with the girls who had once led me on the scavenger hunt, with boys who made cracks about my stomach, my breasts. There’s that day, and that day, and after that day, there’s another, and after that one, another, I’d tell myself.” – And Now You Can Go, pg. 186

And Now You Can Go by Vendela Vida

And Now You Can Go by Vendela Vida

How many ways can you measure distance? Centimeters, inches, feet, yards, meters, miles, kilometers, and everything else in between, above, and below, expanding across the vacant patches of grass, asphalt, and dirt, to separate living beings from other living beings. Of course, we don’t have to think in terms of length.

Time is so much easier to consider. Five seconds from the bedroom to the bathroom. Thirty minutes on an unheated bus with single-pane windows to a public school. An hour in morning traffic crossing two construction zones, which are marked off purely for show since no work is going on, just to sit in a cubicle and stare at a flickering computer screen for 8 hours in order to keep the lights on another month. Continue reading

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I am I

“Alice didn’t think that Tweedledee and Tweedledum were listening to the song she had sung to her friend, but they were, for no sooner had she finished than Tweedledee said: “And who is Alice by herself? You belong to your race.”” – Through the Broken Mirror with Alice, pg. 67

Through the Broken Mirror with Alice by Maia Wojciechowska

Through the Broken Mirror with Alice by Maia Wojciechowska

If I speak, I speak my own opinions. If I write, I write my own thoughts. If I act, the actions are reflective of my character. I am I.

In America, we are told that everyone is equal. We are told that within that equality of persons, each individual will be judged by their character. As human beings we are equal; we are never less than another. By character we become unequal; whether we are good or bad is determined by our actions. Continue reading

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Robert Johnson wails

“‘But what was this world created for?’ said Candide.

‘To drive us mad,’ replied Martin.” – Candide, pg. 95

Candide by Voltaire

Candide by Voltaire

I used to have a diverse music collection. There was a time when you could glance at the wall of CDs in my room and see Ice Cube sitting next to Bad Brains next to Johnny Cash next to Capleton next to Coltrane. At some point though, rhyme and flow overtook hard drums, Jamaican wails, saxophones, and Southern guitars, so hip-hop dominated my collection.

I offer no apologies for that. I am devoted to hip-hop. If people had a song for every step they took, my steps would be backed by the Zulu Nation, 2Pac, and Mos Def. But when musical preference collapses wholly into one genre, it’s easy to overlook the greatness of great artists–excuse the redundancy.

So here’s my confession: I am 21 years old and I have only heard Robert Johnson for the first time this week. Continue reading

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Narcissistic statuses and nebulous dreams

“I had meant by telling them my dream that I had taken them in, because only people who were very important to me had ever shown up in my dreams. I did not know if they understood that.” – Lucy, pg. 15

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

At 10:48am on November 28, 2011, on Facebook, 12 of my friends are officially online, and possibly a few others who have chosen to avoid FB chat. But out of those friends, I can see that two are actually listening to indie bands and gangsta rap on Spotify, three are posting additional family photos from Thanksgiving, several have been tagged in some embarrassing photos from a bar, and the rest are complaining about work/giving general updates about their day so far/posting song lyrics to reflect emotional mood. Continue reading

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