shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


essaying your thirst

There's a certain kind of essay I like. Conversational, but polished. Funny and wise. Confessional, but only to a certain extent -- offering a peek behind the curtain is better than pulling the curtain back. I want some mystery left, but a sense of openness at the same time. My favorite kind of essay feels more like a miscellany with a unified theme. It makes me want a whole book of them in the same voice. Charles Simic's The Unemployed Fortune Teller and The Orphan Factory are good examples. Eduardo Galeano's essays, while more polished and essaylike, also fit the bill. There are others.

Add Christian Bauman to the list, after his fantastic opening essay in Bookmark Now. Seriously, I keep wringing my hands thinking oh, I'll quote this, but then I can't quote that. I woke up Christopher last night so I could read him one section. "Not Fade Away" is a fabulous brief essay and makes me want an entire book of them from him, his own A Moveable Feast (the comparison'll make more sense after you read it). Here then, a snippet chosen with closed eyes and pointed finger:

I was an enlisted soldier, a private first class when I deployed to Somalia. The young officers, second lieutenants, were about my age. They'd been ROTC, for the most part, meaning they were college graduates. And I wonder, if I'd walked in their shoes, had their experience, would I have read Hemingway in Africa, away to war?

Here's the thing about clichés: They're not clichés if nobody tells you. They're not clichés if you don't know it. And if it is a cliché and you know it, maybe you don't pack it, maybe you don't bring it, and then just imagine what is lost. So much is lost.

Really, it's worth the price of admission for this essay alone... except it's up online at Identity Theory for free and you'll want to go read it immediately. But don't you agree you'll also want the whole book? I've certainly got high hopes for the rest. (Glen David Gold, Michelle Richmond, Tracy Chevalier, Dan Kennedy, Doug Rushkoff, Tom Bissell; it really does have a fantastic line-up.)

I did read Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith's incomparably sweet (Nicola mentions a new Aud novel too, yay!) essay about their life together, as partners and writers. It was especially fun to hear their own account of their meeting, since it's sort of Clarion lore at this point and you hear it rendered in flatter accounts when, really, it sounds like it was more magic than anything else.


  • At 9:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Do you recommend the Aud books?


  • At 9:40 AM , Blogger gwenda said...

    Hey Lisa --

    I absolutely do. The first one (The Blue Place) is slightly more stilted in parts, but must be read and is definitely worth reading. The second one (Stay), which is a direct reaction to the ending of the first book -- and is why you can't skip it -- is completely beautiful, nearly perfect, in a whole different league. I loved it.

    Kelley Eskridge's first novel Solitaire is also one I recommend heartily, but with the caveat that you should avoid any reviews or even reading the flap copy. There's an excellent surprise at the end of the first section that you won't want spoiled.


  • At 12:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Cool! I think I have The Blue Place somewhere around my house but never got more than a few pages into it -- sounds like it's worth another chance.



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