There’s an honored and honorable tradition of writers writing to explain why they write, from George Orwell to Joan Didion to Annie Dillard. Jo Ann Beard, author of The Boys of My Youth and In Zanesville, joins that tradition with her elliptical, associative essay “Close,” that is found in her new powerful collection Festival Days. “Close,” which bumps amongst ducks, preparing for an academic talk, a poem by Dennis Nurske, also offers straight forward advice likes this:
“So in order to make art (literature) out of just that—human experiences and emotions—we have to find new and surprising ways to convey our insights. That means we have to have insights, which means we have to think, and that means we have to work to create art out of life, to bring something new to each sentence, a surprise for the reader. Not in a pyrotechnic way, but through intelligence, through our powers of imagination, and through the rigorous refusal to waste a reader’s time.”
You can read the rest of the review at the California Review of Books.