But actually, essays were everywhere, proliferating in all of the magazines. When I began writing essays, my novelist and poet friends encouraged me, pushing me into that niche, so I began teaching the traditional personal essay.
I was at the University of Houston at the time, and I kept trying to find books to give my students.
But I know that I have certain inclinations, tastes, and blind spots.
For instance, it’s hard for me to appreciate something with no sense of humor, irony, mischief, or playfulness somewhere in it.
But then another reflex of mine is anti-self-righteousness, and I’m opposed to asserting my superiority to everyone else. It’s amusing to be a contrarian, to think against the grain of received opinion.
Many writers, especially young writers, write what they think their peer group thinks they should think, instead of what they actually think.Phillip Lopate has left an indelible mark on the literary world.Through both his own writing and the editing of landmark anthologies, he has reestablished the art of the personal essay.I’ve been gathering material for this American essay anthology, taking the perspective that there are brilliant essays in every walk of life: science, politics, religion, anthropology, psychiatry.There are always going to be good essays because they are one of the forms through which information, opinion, and point of view are conveyed.I started as a wannabe fiction writer, then wrote poetry.When I started reading personal essays, I realized that the form combined the narrative of fiction with the associative quality of poetry.I’m knee-deep in this project, finding so much, getting a whole new education Some of it had to do with the lineage of essays talking about other essays.I read so much for that anthology, from various cultures that didn’t have strong personal essay traditions, like Native American and Arabic. Ultimately it came down to what spoke to me, what excited and amused me.That’s been an important part of my approach, the fact that I’ve always liked the historical, because the publishing industry is geared toward the hottest and edgiest.This is especially true in America, a country of amnesiacs who don’t remember anything.