Feature: Of Essays and Exes
By Joey Franklin
When I teach the essay to new college students, I usually put the kibosh on three subjects right away—the Big Disease, the Big Game, and the Big Break-Up. One reason for this blanket prohibition is as simple as it is selfish: I don’t want to read bad writing about tired subjects; and there are few subjects more exercised in the essays of new college students than dying family members, fleeting athletic glory, and the pains of first love.
I do have a more legitimate reason for this prohibition than my own desire to never read another internal monologue about teenage unrequited love. You see, I steer my students away from these subjects because, while the loss they represent is certainly real, it is a loss so common as to tax the ability of any writer—let alone a young writer—to say something worthwhile.
Perhaps, then, it is unfair that I follow up this prohibition by challenging my students to write according to Phillip Lopate’s dictum: “The trick is to realize that one is not important, except insofar as one’s example can serve to elucidate a more widespread human trait and make readers feel a little less lonely and freakish.” Read More