Review: This was one of those essays in which the essayist gives details about his life and personal experiences that are more personal than any reader would want to know. I mean really embarrassingly personal details. Along the way he describes the pain of being a stutterer, his scandalous relationship with women, the pain of childbirth in women and just about any kind of pain allotted to human beings. These descriptions of pain depress.
He does have one interesting comment at the end about the pain of dying: “It’s when we have no imperative purpose in front of our sufferings that we think about ‘bearing up’; ‘bearing up’ is converted to serve as a purpose…. Since we must like it or lump it, we like it.”
Rating for this essay: * out of *****.
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.
Note: Both of the previous essays by Edward Hoagland were “downers.” I will not summarize another essay like them. I consider literature and art, in general, to be uplifting, in spite of the tragedies of the world. Save depression for the daily local newscasts. I expect art to make me want to live. I don’t need to be depressed by what I read. I know many of my readers will disagree with me, but even the essays by James Baldwin give one a sense of hope. The ancient Greeks and Shakespeare could deal that way with tragedy and that’s what I am looking for in the essays I review. RayS.