Monday, October 10, 2005

Another Week of Class

Another week of class tonight. This week we read three essays focusing on the narrative persona or voice. The essays, "A Chapter on Ears" by Charles Lamb (aka Elia), "On Going a Journey" by William Hazlitt, and "Goodbye to All That" by Joan Didion. Then we had a handout with character traits written on it. We were to choose one of the essays and circle the traits that best described that essayist's persona. Also on the sheet we were supposed to indicate what traits we wanted our essay persona to have. Curmudgeonly? Provocative? Maudlin? Next, the assignment asked for a brief character sketch of my persona followed by an opening paragraph of an essay written in that persona. My character sketch is a combination of truth and wishful thinking. If you're interested, read on, if not, skip to the very end for a couple of links to NY Times articles of interest from yesterday. So here's my sketch:

My essay persona is a mix of seriousness and playfulness. She has a sarcastic sense of humor. She enjoys poking holes in things, especially arguments and people with big egos and if the ego or the argument is hers, all the better. She is likable and casual, sometimes chatty and sort of nerdy. She is plain-spoken but likes to toss in a big fancy word now and then. Her curiosity is large which leads her to be contemplative. Curiosity gives her an open mind, but she also has strong opinions. However opinionated, she will change her mind given new facts and evidence. She aspires to lyricism but is happy if the essay just feels and sounds right.
And here is my opening paragraph:
I have become a coffee snob. It is a surprising thing given that the first time I ever tried coffee I thought it disgusting. I didn’t understand how it was my dad could drink it every morning. So the fact that I’m a coffee snob sort of snuck up on me, especially since what I like best about coffee is the way it tastes. I’m pretty sure I like the caffeine too since I refuse to drink decaf, but I like to lie to myself and say it’s because it doesn’t have as much flavor. Now I’m not the kind of coffee snob who goes to Starbucks every morning and orders a double espresso cappuchino latte. I’m the kind of snob who cares about taste, about where and how those glorious bean were grown, about how to enjoy my cup of fresh, hot coffee. I am a connoisseur.
I am not sure that I was successful in capturing my sketched persona, but I think I may have managed a flavor. While the class is not as rigorous as I would have hoped--everyone including the teacher is nicey-nice and no one is going to tell you that you shouldn't be there (which is, of course what I want, tell me if my writing sucks!), it might squash your creative spirit--I am still learning a little. I am learning to be more specific, more precise, more focused and particular. I am also a bit uptight in my essay writing since the only official essays I ever wrote before this class were academic. So I am trying to loosen up and approach the finished product in a more blog-like way. I'll see how this plays out in next week's assignment. And now, here are the links I promised earlier:
  • A really nice write up of Vonnegut's new book. He was also on PBS but I didn't know this until too late and saw only the last few minutes.
  • An interesting essay about biography. The author writes about the English penchant for bios and the desert that is biography in America. I think Americans don't write more biography because we write memoir, we like to tell out own story, not someone else's. Perhaps this is a result of our self-centered celebrity obsessed culture. Memoir is great but I prefer a good biography any day.