John Proctor Essays

John Proctor Essays-4
In eleven of the 15 essays I read, the concept was even stated in the title: “Community College” “Table of Figures” “Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood” “A Few Things I Know About Softball” “I Met a Man Who Has Seen the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and This Is What He Told Me” “Going to the Movies” “My ‘80s” “In the Fifties” “The Search for Marvin Gardens” “The Grimm Brothers: A List Essay” “Virtually Romance: A Discourse on Love in the Information Age” And in the other three the concept was subtly, almost secretly implicit: “A Few Things About That Day” [about an abortion] “What Comes Out” [about an abortion clinic] “(names have been changed)” [about an 11-year-old girl with HIV, presumably from her stepfather or uncle) The importance of this is that not just the action, but the structure itself of each essay revolves around the concept.And “revolve” is a good word for it, as very few of the list essays I’ve read follow a linear narrative, and even the ones that generally do, like “A Few Things I Know About Softball,” “Community College,” and “The Grimm Brothers: A List Essay,” break up the narrative with systematic stylistic devices.

In eleven of the 15 essays I read, the concept was even stated in the title: “Community College” “Table of Figures” “Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood” “A Few Things I Know About Softball” “I Met a Man Who Has Seen the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and This Is What He Told Me” “Going to the Movies” “My ‘80s” “In the Fifties” “The Search for Marvin Gardens” “The Grimm Brothers: A List Essay” “Virtually Romance: A Discourse on Love in the Information Age” And in the other three the concept was subtly, almost secretly implicit: “A Few Things About That Day” [about an abortion] “What Comes Out” [about an abortion clinic] “(names have been changed)” [about an 11-year-old girl with HIV, presumably from her stepfather or uncle) The importance of this is that not just the action, but the structure itself of each essay revolves around the concept.And “revolve” is a good word for it, as very few of the list essays I’ve read follow a linear narrative, and even the ones that generally do, like “A Few Things I Know About Softball,” “Community College,” and “The Grimm Brothers: A List Essay,” break up the narrative with systematic stylistic devices.

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Marquart, in two brief pages, reconstructs from hazy memory the same process , stating that “My friend tried to soften it for me afterwards.

” So, for both, perhaps the United States’ most heated contemporary political debate becomes simply a procedure to get something out.

And the process itself of reading a bunch of unrelated essays and attempting to delineate precepts that they all follow is itself an example of the tightrope walk between narrative thought and systematic application, as each of these essays does tell a story, most of them intensely personal, and my attempt here is to figure out some analogous connections between their systematic methods of telling those narratives. That the force that drives the essay is at least as much concept as plot.

The list essay could be called a non-fiction concept story.

I did, though, find myself writing in it and blindly starting to lay out some basic precepts as I wrote, then trying to identify them in other essays.

I can’t precisely identify the methods I used in finding the essays I chose, except to say that I searched through my non-fiction anthologies for essays that looked like the ones I was writing (and I mean “looked” in the most physical sense – I tried to find essays that resembled lists), googled the term “list essay,” and asked everyone I knew if they could think of possible examples.Both are short, unassuming, and quietly heartbreaking, and neither says what is implied.Wilkie even starts the essay by telling the reader, “We do not talk about What Comes Out,” then clinically and unsparingly takes the reader through the process the health care workers go through in removing and disposing of it.But, like on Debra Marquart’s “Some Things About That Day” in which she lists everything she remembers about the day she had an abortion, the process of listing everything one remembers about one event can reveal to the writer and the reader why this event has defined the writer.The essay is only two pages, eleven paragraphs of 4-6 lines each.In their application, “List records scientific truth, with logic providing tests of a List’s accuracy and universality.Story embodies aesthetic ‘truth’ (meaning), with narration providing guidance in revealing and discovering such situationally bound meaning.” It’s important to point out here that the list essay is a different entity than the list story, since technically the essay is a non-fiction form that usually contains elements of both systematic and narrative style. Aesthetically it’s not as concise as “list essay,” but I think it actually rolls off the tongue quite nicely.In the third paragraph, she finds it “difficult to remember the order in which things happened.” In the seventh paragraph she recounts telling her husband she was pregnant and him asking, “Is it mine?” And in the last paragraph she arrives home from the procedure to find him watching the NBA playoffs and telling her how brave she is.In “…About Softball” Paik breaks up the sections with headings like “Lesson1: Put your body in front of the ball,” “Lesson 2: Catch with both hands,” and so forth.“Community College” reads like a log book of a college lecturer, with headings for each of the 16 weeks of the semester.

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