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As stimulating a discussion of the personal essay as I have ever encountered. With the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime of practicing and teaching the form, Klaus thoughtfully probes and generously upends his own and everyone else's pieties. We are deeply in his debt. -Phillip Lopate. Quite simply, Carl Klaus's magnum opus: the book he has spent his entire writing life building toward: a persuasive and even moving summing up of everything he knows about the essay, especially the protean, inherently problematizing, stylized nature of the form. An extremely valuable correction to any misconception of `nonfiction as truth.' -David Shields, author, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto. This book is a cabinet of finely balanced wonders: treatise and revelation, study and confession, provocation and lyric-but most of all, it's a love letter to the essay form. Carl Klaus approaches his subject, the complicated construction of a self on the page, with the curiosity, intellect, and innocence of an artist in love with and awed by his materials. As he reflects on essayists past and present as well as on his own prose, Klaus's insights grow ever more intimate. His is a sensibility engaged in the deepest, lifelong work an essayist can perform: the creation, nurturing, and refining of that ever-elusive yet companionable madeup self. -Lia Purpura, author, On Looking For decades, Carl Klaus convened a sometimes formal, sometimes informal seminar on his Ouroboros-like obsession, his lifelong study: the essay on the essay. Nobody knows the history of the essay with his depth, discernment, and passion, and we are fortunate to now have this distillation of a distinguished career's work. Throughout he reminds us of the essay's restlessness, what he calls the form's `mocking refusal to play the academic game,' and its capaciousness, its formidable ability to challenge and renew our sense of the self and its worlding through words. A brilliant and brilliantly pithy book. -Tom Lutz, author, Doing Nothing: A History of Loafers, Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America. The human presence that animates the personal essay is surely one of the most beguiling of literary phenomena, for it comes across in so familiar a voice that it's easy to believe we are listening to the author rather than a textual stand-in. But the person in a personal essay is always a written construct, a fabricated character, its confessions and reminiscences as rehearsed as those of any novelist. In this first book-length study of the personal essay, Carl Klaus unpacks this made-up self and the manifold ways in which a wide range of essayists and essays have brought it to life. By reconceiving the most fundamental aspect of the personal essay-the I of the essayist-Klaus demonstrates that this seemingly uncontrived form of writing is inherently problematic, not willfully devious but bordering upon the world of fiction. He develops this key idea by explaining how structure, style, and voice determine the nature of a persona and our perception of it in the works of such essayists as Michel de Montaigne, Charles Lamb, E. B. White, and Virginia Woolf. Realizing that this persona is shaped by the force of culture and the impress of personal experience, he explores the effects of both upon the point of view, content, and voice of such essayists as George Orwell, Nancy Mairs, Richard Rodriguez, and Alice Walker. Throughout, in full command of the history of the essay, he calls up numerous passages in which essayists themselves acknowledge the element of impersonation in their work, drawing upon the perspectives of Joan Didion, Edward Hoagland, Joyce Carol Oates, Leslie Marmon Silko, Scott Russell Sanders, Annie Dillard, Vivian Gornick, Loren Eiseley, James Baldwin, and a host of other literary guides. Finally, adding yet another layer to the made-up self, Klaus succumbs to his addiction to the personal essay by placing some of the different selves that various essayists have called forth in him within the essays that he has crafted so carefully for this book. Making his way from one essay to the next with a persona variously learned, whimsical, and poignant, he enacts the palimpsest of ways in which the made-up self comes to life in the work of a single essayist. Thus over the course of this highly original, beautifully structured study, the personal essay is revealed to be more complex than many readers have supposed. With its lively analyses and illuminating examples, The Made-Up Self will speak to anyone who wishes to understand-or to write-personal essays.
My Vegetable Love offers a detailed daily record of gardenng, loving, and living during a single growing season--from the first outdoor planting in early spring to the final fall harvest shortly after Thanksgiving. Yet Klaus describes far more than the toils and triumphs of tending vegetables, as his observations encompass the day-to-day changes in weather and wildlife as well as the life changes in his pets, his wife, and himself. As Patricia Hampl wrote, Beneath the simplicity of this beguiling gardener's journal lies the captivating story of good life and true love. In the spirit of M. F. K. Fisher's writing about food and drink, Carl Klaus has found in his garden a model of the enduring passions of life and death.
This passionate gardener's daily record of a growing season adds up to one of the best pieces of garden writing in years. But this book is about much more than planting, tending, and harvesting a vegetable garden. It's about all the things that influence this gardener: the weather, the neighborhood, his wife's possibly recurring cancer, the changing nature of the academic community; it's about the last months of his twenty-year-old cat, about his dog, and about all the other humans and animals in his gardening world. And about his family: the aunts and uncles who cared for and fed a six-year-old orphan and instilled in him the understanding that good food was a way of knowing that someone cared. In all the gardens he has tended, the dills he has pickled, and the dinners he has cooked, Klaus has tried to carry on that tradition and pass it on to his own children.
The first historically and internationally comprehensive collection of its kind, Essayists on the Essay is a path breaking work that is nothing less than a richly varied source book for anyone interested in the theory, practice, and art of the essay. This unique work includes a selection of fifty distinctive pieces by American, Canadian, English, European, and South American essayists from Montaigne to the present-many of which have not previously been anthologised or translated-as well as a detailed bibliographical and thematic guide to hundreds of additional works about the essay. From a buoyant introduction that provides a sweeping historical and analytic overview of essayists' thinking about their genre-a collective poetics of the essay-to the detailed head notes offering pointed information about both the essayists themselves and the anthologised selections, to the richly detailed bibliographic sections, Essayists on the Essay is essential to everyone who cares about the form. This collection provides teachers, scholars, essayists, and readers with the materials they need to take a fresh look at this important but often overlooked form that has for too long been relegated to the role of service genre-used primarily to write about other more literary genres or to teach young people how to write. Here, in a single celebratory volume, are four centuries of commentary and theory reminding us of the essay's storied history, its international appeal, and its relationship not just with poetry and fiction but also with radio, film, video, and new media.
Sorrow is not a state, but a process that needs not a map but a history...There is something new to be chronicled every day, writes C. S. Lewis in A Grief Observed . When Carl Klaus's wife of thirty-five years died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage, right before Thanksgiving in 2002, he took the only road toward recovery that made sense to him: he started writing letters to her, producing a unique history of grief, solace, and love. His vivid and thoughtful letters will resonate with everyone whose loss confronts them with emotional, psychological, and philosophical questions for which there are no easy answers. During his first year without Kate, Carl writes himself into the life that comes after the life he loved. From days of grief in the darkness of a midwestern winter, to springtime, with a return to life in the garden and a memorial service for Kate on a sunny afternoon, to fall, with a pilgrimage to their favorite vacation spot in Hawaii, Carl documents his year-long experience of remembering, meditating, and evolving a new life. Individually, his letters provide the insights of a master diarist; collectively, they have the arc of a master essayist. Recording the full range of mourning from intense shock to moments of exceptional affirmation, Klaus's stories and reflections on loss bear witness to universal truths about the first and most significant year of mourning.
The author reminds readers that the season of brown twigs and icy gales is just as much a part of the year as the time when the tulips open and tomatoes thrive. He keeps track of snow falling, birds flocking, soups simmering, garden catalogues arriving, buds swelling and seed trays coming to life.