Lori's Book Nook

The Personal Essay

Posted on: September 25, 2006

Type “personal essay” into the Google search bar and you get pages upon pages of links to tips on how to write your college/university entrance essay…and lots of people linking to what seems to be the definitive book of essays, Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. (Oh, and if you’re of the Book Club ilk, you can even find a book club guide at Random House.)

Funny that. Pretty much exactly how I ended up with a copy of the book in my library. I was working on an application to a grad program, and wanted to write something more than the ‘this is what I’ve been up to’ style essay, so I picked up Lopate’s book, and lost myself in some of the essays. Used some of the rhetorical tricks therein, had a couple of grad student friends give it a vicious going over, and was pretty proud of the end result. (It landed me the interview, but I don’t think I was hungry enough for academia in person.)

I like reading personal narrative essays, in magazines, online…if, and only if, they are good. You all know what I’m talking about — I want meaty insight, intense story, thunderclap of recognition…no wimpy stories about lessons learned from your cat/dog/precocious child.

This ramble today was triggered by my StumblingUpon this essay site: Fresh Yarn: the Online Salon for Personal Essays. I haven’t fully delved yet, maybe you can all help me.


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