Exploring the List Essay

October 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

CaptureA heads up from our good friend (and king of all things Quotidiana) Patrick Madden:

Keen essay readers have long noted the prevalence and importance of lists within essays, whether quick catalogs of items in a cupboard or multiple perspectives on the question of whether animals have souls, so it’s no surprise to find not just lists-in-essays but lists-AS-essays coming into a kind of subgeneric, subversive prominence in our postmodern period. Leonard Michaels’s “In the Fifties” and Wayne Koestenbaum’s “My ’80s” both focused on decades filtered through personal experience, and Joe Brainard perhaps took the form farthest with his “I Remember” books, which covered, in haphazard fashion, a whole life.

Somewhat independently and somewhat inspired by these and other examples, essayist John Proctor has been chronicling his life in decades-dedicated lists updated daily on his website. September pitted us “Against the Eighties and October is bringing us “Out of the Nineties,” while November promises the Aughts and December will regress to the Seventies. Having read the whole series (before the links, embedded videos, and photos, which heighten the online experience), I highly recommend it. It offers an interesting challenge to our default narrative and structural expectations while essaying a life through its interactions and influences.

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