Memoir & Essay

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The Philosophy of Pugilistic Spectacle

The Philosophy of Pugilistic Spectacle

AS AN OCCASIONAL WATCHER of mixed martial arts fights on television, I particularly like it when the announcer informs the crowd of the precise means of victory. For example, after watching some bare-...

Scatterings

Scatterings

2014 MARKS THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of the Wilderness Act, the most important piece of environmental legislation in America’s history. Over the last year, the news media have run dozens of articles ab...

Channeling the Emotion of the Moment

Channeling the Emotion of the Moment

IN 2005, WHEN JULIA GILLARD was a Member of Parliament to watch, and not Australia’s first female prime minister, a photograph of her sitting at the kitchen table in her suburban home illustrated a ...

Fathoming Family

Fathoming Family

ONE OF THE STRANGE and amazing things about being an essayist and reading essays both for work and for pleasure is that you can develop the erroneous feeling that you and a favorite essayist are frien...

Closing the Circle

Closing the Circle

AFTER HIS FATHER’S DEATH in 2007, Marcos Giralt Torrente read sundry memoirs “for inspiration,” as he prepared to write Tiempo de vida, his award-winning book about personal loss and the final y...

Finding Words

Finding Words

WHEN I WAS in my 20s I was sure that I would die of a broken heart. My Cuban mother brought me to the only person she thought could fix it: Margaríta. Margaríta knew things. She was also a Cubana, a...

Notes on a Native Daughter: Joan Didion at 80

Notes on a Native Daughter: Joan Didion at 80

EVEN NOW, even in this century, decades past the pictures with Corvettes and cigarettes and sunglasses, even after her manner, with its uneasy admixture of condescension toward the world and delicacy ...

Ghost Story

Ghost Story

ONE AFTERNOON, just as light is beginning to pale in the crescent window under the rafters, a woman going through old boxes in her grandparents’ attic comes across a sheaf of photographs: in them he...

Where Danger Is

Where Danger Is

CRITICAL AND TERRITORIAL in my nature, not easily impressed by my fellow essayists, I will here cede territory and admit to being impressed, more than impressed, by the vigorously growing oeuvre of Re...

All in the Family

All in the Family

IN 1968 RICHARD BLANCO’S parents decided to emigrate from Castro’s Cuba. They arrived first in Madrid, where Blanco was born in a hospital run by Catholic nuns. A few weeks later, the family was a...

Working the Beat on S Street

Working the Beat on S Street

THE DAY BEFORE I finished reading Ruben Castaneda’s memoir I left my office at Howard University and walked to the neighborhood he described in his book. It took me about 15 minutes. I walked down...

Speaking of Memory: Nabokov’s Folded Fabric

Speaking of Memory: Nabokov’s Folded Fabric

EARLY IN THE PAGES of his memoir, Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov confesses that he is a “chronophobic,” that he in fact not only fears but also doesn’t “believe in time,” that he is less im...

The Art of the Essay

The Art of the Essay

WHAT MAKES a personal essay work, an essay that is partly about the writer and partly about something or someone else? This genre has a long, rich history, and Icon, edited by Amy Scholder and publish...

The Navel-Gazer’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Navel-Gazer’s Guide to the Galaxy

WHAT CONSTITUTES self-involvement, exactly? If I told you an entertaining story about the existential dread that befell me as my parents moved from one run-down desert town to another, would you consi...