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In “The Personal Essay: A Form of Discovery,” His introduction to , Epstein writes “Literary forms, like stocks, rise and fall, not in value of course, but in prestige.” Might the reflective personal essay be on its way out?
A more recent reflective personal essay that I cherish is Daphne Merkin’s, in 1991.
In this essay, Merkin has left a favorite scarf in a New York City taxi she’s just alighted from.
If so, shame on the writer if she’s not at all sure of the answers to the questions she’s implicitly raising in her essay.
Is this preference, if it is a preference, for narrative personal essays a result of our shortened attention spans?
Perhaps what I fear is not only the demise of the reflective essay.
It’s possible my apprehension stems from the way I experience my own life.
Though I’ve enjoyed many narrative personal essays, such as the chilling “Angry Winter,” by Loren Eiseley, my deepest appreciation is reserved for the personal essay.
Am I to be deprived of this type of essay, which I not only enjoy reading, but write?
In narrative personal essays, I often feel rushed to arrive at and over that pesky narrative arc that looms like a hurdle on an otherwise level path; There’s the unfolding of the plot and the determined trot towards the climax and resolution.
An email from an editor made it clear where his interest lay. [Italics mine.] The writer of the narrative personal essay is discouraged from wondering, meandering, or doubling back to poke at inchoate thoughts, or to reconsider questions that refuse to be easily, even glibly, settled.