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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

That self-indulgent teenage feeling

By Gesse Stark-Smith

Most of my favorite books were written within the past ten years. Since I want to analyze all things about myself (and probably about you, too) I’ve mulled it over and decided there are three main reasons for this preference:
1) I went through an extended phase of “reading the classics” when I was around 12. I thought I was demonstrating/nurturing my cultured intellect when, in fact, I was boring myself to tears with Henry James’ eight page descriptions of the crimson drapes in somebody’s sitting room.

2) I like books that are easy to read and recent books are written in my own modern vernacular.

3) I’m “all about genre-blurring!”

What I mean by genre-blurring is that I don’t care if what you have to tell me is true in the sense that it strictly corresponds to reality, so long as it reveals a truth that provides a wider understanding of ourselves in the world. I don’t care if you want to call your writing a poem, a story or an essay. Regardless of the category you select, I’d like you to pay lots of attention to the words you choose, include some memorable images, have a fresh point of view and provide a bit of narrative structure.
A lot of modern fiction and creative nonfiction fits into this ethos of things that I like. Two recent examples of such works are Wide Eyed, a collection of short stories by Trinie Dalton, and the memoir Everybody into the Pool by Beth Lisick.
Both Dalton and Lisick are young, unintentionally hip and highly literate. They have interesting and clever things to say about what it is like to be young, unintentionally hip and highly literate. Both authors have quirky perspectives, which combine a somewhat bohemian esthetic with a love of popular culture, resulting in something that feels both unique and somehow universal.
Their voices are by turns charming and harsh, lyric and witty. You want to quote their evocative passages: “I crave a past but don’t want to live in it. Eras run into one ageless mess. Ghosts live in different times simultaneously. They yearn for what’s lost. I haven’t even lost anything but I still find myself yearning for it. Not knowing where you come from is dumber than never wanting to leave.” (Dalton) But, also, you want to quote their funny passage, or well, at least I do. I’d like to quote Lisick’s entire essay “Little Bundle of Entropy” which is all about her experiences with her infant son. Let’s just say that her description of avoiding friends when she realizes that she and her baby look like they “should have been on a bus shelter advertisement for birth control” is pretty amazing.

That said, both authors get a little too self-indulgent. This world of free form, stream of consciousness dominated writing is wide open for abuse. Certain pieces and moments don’t work as well as they could and basically there were times when I wanted to say, “Yes, you are very zany and intelligent! Good for you. Now, please, calm down.” Sometimes the stories get pushed just a little too far and instead of my usual compulsion to underline I was forced to cross things out.
All in all these books are delightfully original and, I think, stylistic harbingers of what is to come in the world of creative writing. Frankly, we should all get carried away with the wackiness of our own perspectives now and again; it sure beats spending upwards of 10 pages on a teacup.

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