Monday, October 13, 2008

Between Panic & Desire by Dinty W. Moore

Full disclosure: Dinty Moore will be FAU's Sanders Writer in Residence for a week in the spring, he published my essay in Brevity, and he recently did me a career-related solid... but even if those things weren't true, I'm certain I would have enjoyed this memoir all the same.

Back during my glory days as an editorial assistant at Anchor Books, we were always trying to get essay writers to turn their essays into single narrative books. The theory then, and possibly now, was essay collections didn't sell as well as single narratives. Sedaris and Vowell and others have made a dent in that theory, but all the same, they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. The problem though is it's hard to turn disparate essays into a single narrative what I noticed most powerfully with this memoir was how well Moore had pulled off that feat. Partly this is because there is a quirky nature to his writing (which sometimes includes quizzes, psychic hotline calls, and numeracy (numerology? I don't know the right term) and is almost always collaged) that allows the reader to accept a collaged over-arching narrative. But what he does most brilliantly is apply extended metaphors that thematically link all of the essays. This may be because he has a strong sense of what he's doing with his writing--so the metaphors were in the background all along--but he sets up these metaphors at the start of the memoir so that they truly glue together all that follows. Two examples are the title--Panic and Desire are two Pennsylvania towns that Moore visits, and he cleverly sets up his trip between the two as a metaphor for his emotional journey through life, and his double vision (the thought of which absolutely gives me a headache)--which again serves as a metaphor for how he views the world. Read the book to find out what I'm talking about.

No comments: