If you’re getting tired of blogs–and Christ knows, there’s fluff in these navels–I recommend Philip Lopate’s anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay. This is desert island stuff: 75 essays, from Seneca to Richard Rodriguez. It stops just in time, before this last decade’s boom in pity-me memoir and precocious autobiography.
As more of us choose tell the world our opinions on our breakfast, it’s good to be reminded that a fine personal essay can make us feel more alive. And that soul-baring, like strip-tease, intrigues most when it reveals slowly and artfully.
Try this catalogue from Sei Shonagon, a tenth-century Japanese court lady who kept lists worthy of Live Journal. The essay is called “Hateful Things.”
A man with whom one is having an affair keeps singing the praises of some woman he used to know. Even if it is a thing of the past, this can be very annoying. How much more so if he is still seeing the woman! (Yet sometimes I find that it is not as unpleasant as all that.)
Sometimes one greatly dislikes a person for no particular reason–and then that person goes and does something hateful.
Fleas, too, are very hateful. When they dance about under someone’s clothes they really seem to be lifting them up.