Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two of The Best American Essays in 2008

As I bought this book on the cheap at a Border's...I'm sure I'll be writing about more of them at a later date, but for now...these two...

Notable Quotables by Louis Menand
I read this essay in response to an article I saw about 10 most famous political misquotes. Sarah Palin never said, "I can see Russia from My House" and Al Gore never said, "I invented the internet". More important than the misquote is how it gets into our collective conscience and digs in so deep that the misquote lives a more prosperous life than the person who supposedly said it. As the author of this essay notes, "The Patrick Henry who lives in our heads and hearts is the man who said 'Give me liberty, or give me death!'. ...a Patrick Henry without a death wish, is just not someone we know or care about. His having been said to have said what he never said is a condition of his being 'Patrick Henry'." I had a good time reading all about how there are even great people in the world who go to great lengths sleuthing to find the truth behind the misquote. After all, "the experience of sublimity is subjective and associational. For some reason, a string is plucked and it never stops vibrating." No wonder my students think and tell their parents comments I made that never came out of my mouth. It's much more interesting than the truth of the matter.

Solipsism by Ander Monson
This is the essay right after Notable Quotables.
How can you not want to read an essay that takes you through the rabbit hole and starts like this?

Yeah, you gotta turn the book sideways to read it.

In searching for this essay online I came across a wonderful response (it's a delightful read that still has me thinking and wishing my students thought outside the box like that when they write...or, is that's what is expected after reading this essay?) kind of dogging the fact that Mr. Monson didn't use hypertext for all of the asides, all I could think was that I didn't really miss the hypertext from this lovely and clever essay until it was pointed out to me. I love the idea of using text to enhance our reading experience...I do it often when I write and yet, I don't/can't allow my students to do the same...there's something ironic there, I think. While reading I was also reminded of a time in one of my education classes when I was asked to write about my writing process. We all turned in papers in perfect MLA talking about our writing processes, devoid of all the flavor of the process. She told us to try again. I ended up writing my 'process' in italics and dashes and movie quotes and pictures and, I remember vividly, orange kool-aid stains...that (as I'm writing this in front of the TV), cup in hand, (huh, same cup 13 years later, no lie! it's orange and was bought in a set by my friend at a garage sale before we were afraid that garage sale plastic contained reminants of meth, it comes in a set of four) how I write. Is Dr. Margaret Weaver a solpsist?   I think so.

I also found this and, realized that
I, myself, may have a googling problem...
and, that I may also think too much!

Oh, and Lila with the cup...doing something I'm not sure I like...

1 comment:

  1. I love these collections - specifically because of the variety of essays - they are truly eclectic collections! I have linked your review to the main Essay Challenge page. :)



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