"Love follows knowledge." – St. Catherine of Siena

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lines I Wish I’d Written: The Classification of Prose Style by Richard A, Lanham

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this year’s read on writing is Richard Lanham’s Style: An Anti Text Book.  It’s a rare person I guess that loves to understand the detailed nature of prose writing approaches.  I guess most people enjoy reading and accept a particular writer’s style, but I like to break it down: sentence structure, sentence sequence, paragraph development, rhetorical approaches.  It’s really the nuts and bolts of the writing craft.  And so I read at least one book on writing per year. 

I’m a third of the way through Lanham’s book, and though he irritated me with an overly extended gripe on how poorly schools teach writing, I think we share some fundamental approaches to writing that go contrary to what Lanham refers to as “the textbooks.”  And so, he subtitles his book, “An Anti Text Book.” 

I just enjoyed reading these two paragraphs opening his third chapter, titled, “The Opaque Style.  Just observe as he describes the nature of prose style, how he constructs his style for simple elegance.

Prose style knows but a single taxonomy: the classification into high, middle, and low.  That this has lasted with little protest from Cicero’s day to our own demonstrates its flexibility more than its precision, but any explanation of the Expository Prose Vision Moralized must pass through it to a more satisfactory categorization.  The threefold division emerges from an earlier one, earlier in logic as well as time: thought will demand one style, emotion another.  Thought will find a style that is logical, clear, unornamental, largely unpatterned.   Emotion will devise a different strategy, appealing through form and stock response rather than through clarity and logic.  An intermediate position pops up like a mushroom.  It will do something of both.  Argue with feeling, move with logic.

These three positions form the basis for several discriminations.  We discriminate by purposes: reason within the low style, move in the high, or “conciliate” (as Cicero calls it) by some combination.  Or we separate by subject: high style for serious subject, low for humble tasks of ordering life, middle for the mixed world between or small subject that promises greatly.  But neither purpose nor subject tells us about the style itself, the pattern of words.  Three additional specific criteria can animate the threefold division: syntax, diction, density of ornament.  The high style chooses specialized or unfamiliar or highly resonant words and puts them into careful patterns of balance, antithesis, and climax.  It allows itself the ornaments of sound (alliterations, assonance, rhyme), puns, the whole range of metaphor and simile, the pleasures of repetition and restatement.  The low style uses none of these; the middle style, some, but moderately and in moderate combination.

Every sentence is so finely constructed.  It progresses logically as one would expect, but it moves with a beating rhythm.  The one ornament is the mushroom simile in the first paragraph, and that enacts the very thing it describes, the muddle of the middle style.  I love how he uses the colon to separate appositive nouns.  Notice this graceful yet daring sentence: “The threefold division emerges from an earlier one, earlier in logic as well as time: thought will demand one style, emotion another.”  Have you ever seen a sentence with a right branching, free modifying participle phrase “earlier in logic as well as time” tack on a modifying independent clause (“thought will demand one style, emotion another”) connected by a full colon?  If I have, I’ve never noticed, but I don’t think so.  Even the most boring of subjects—the nature of prose writing—can be originally and beautifully written. 

UPDATE (Aug. 21):
I meant to add but I now realize I forgot to say that Lanham rejects the high, middle, and low classification of prose style.  I was focused above on Lanham’s writing and his own graceful style and not so much on completing Lanham’s thoughts.  After fully describing those categories he goes on to reject it.  A few pages later he states:

The trouble with the tripartite division is not that it is vague and thus inapplicable.  It is so vague it is nearly always applicable—especially so if you redefine it thoroughly, either morally or effectively.  You can even adapt it to the dictates of clarity and scientific prose.  The high style becomes bad, the middle good, and the low “colloquial.”  No, the trouble lurks in the tripartite division itself.  Because it renders comparison invidious, it introduces the dispute that invidious comparison inevitably brings.  It cannot just describe, it must evaluate.  Which purposes are best?  Which subjects most serious?  Who, what, most moral?  More than this, it has repeatedly proved itself tone-deaf.  It can tell you what was said and explain why it was said that way, but it seldom reveals the spirit in which it was said.  It defines badly the kind of agreement struck between writer and reader.  It forces us, finally, to take an attitude be formal (diction, syntax, density of figures), moral (as with [Northrop] Frye’s definition), or scientific.  It asks, in composition course, to teach things that cannot be taught.

There is  more of course and Lanham goes on to re-categorize style, but we’ll leave it here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Music Tuesday: How Deep is the Ocean by Ella Fitzgerald

Sometimes you come across an article that leaves your head scratching.  The title was certainly an eye catcher, especially for someone like me.  It came from the Wall Street Journal—the best newspaper in the country—from its Life and Culture section, and had both a musical and literary theme.  Here’s the title, “Shakespeare Expert Stephen Greenblatt on Irving Berlin: The author of 'Will in the World' sees a link to 'King Lear.'”    

Now I have said elsewhere that I hold King Lear to be the greatest play ever written.  Stephen Greenblatt is well known literary critic who among other places taught at Harvard.  Which doesn’t impress me because I’ve read some asinine essays by critics who teach at some of the most prestigious universities in the world.  Now as I checked Greenblatt’s bio I was surprised to find three interesting facts.  He was a co-editor to Norton’s Anthology of English Literature  which is probably the most widely used anthology of English Literature across colleges in the United States.  (Perhaps it’s used overseas as well, I just don’t know.)  Mr. Greenblatt was president of MLA, the Modern Language Association, the most prestigious literary/language affiliation in the country.  Those two facts alone put him in the major leagues of literary criticism.

And then there was the third fact, that he was one of the founders of NewHistoricism, a critical approach to literature that became popular in the 1990s and into the early 2000s.  I’m not going to go into it here, but suffice it to say that I strongly oppose the approach of the New Historicists.  I made myself stand out in my last college class in Grad school, where I strongly argued against it and its methodology, all the while as the professor pushed it upon the class.  In the end she respected my opinion, held me to be the best student in the class (she told me outside of class), and easily gave me an A.  You can read some of the opposition to New Historicism in that Wikipedia entry.  But even that doesn’t do the criticism justice.  For instance, New Historicism holds that every piece of text, no matter what its context, is of equal value.  So then, if we had Shakespeare’ laundry list, it would have equal literary value as his King Lear.  So why bother would King Lear?  That might be one of the more minor idiocies of New Historicism, but it’s one easy to articulate and grasp.  So much for professors that teach at Harvard.

So getting back to the Wall Street Journal article, what exactly is Greenblatt’s point?  He has a particular affection for an Irving Berlin  song, “How Deep Is the Ocean.”  Now I didn’t ever recall having heard the song, but when I checked on my itunes list, there it was sung by Dinah Washington.  Here’s what Greenblatt says of the song.

 "How Deep Is the Ocean" [by Irving Berlin] is an unusual love song. All of the lyrics are posed as questions, except for "I'll tell you no lie." Each question conveys emotional intensity—whether posed from parent to child or between two lovers: "How far would I travel, to be where you are? / How far is the journey, from here to a star?" The questions are meant to express love, but there's also anxiety in the song over the possibility of lost love and more than a hint of pressure on the recipient to reciprocate.

After now hearing close to a dozen versions of the song, I have to say the song is a classic.  Like so many of the Great American Songbook of songs, it’s so simple and heartfelt.  Greenblatt’s right, the questions coming one after another really does create a particular tension, the least of which is a circling toward the center of the emotion.  Here are the lyrics, minus the opening set of questions that most singers leave off.

How much do I love you?
 I'll tell you no lie
 How deep is the ocean?
 How high is the sky?

How many times a day
 Do I think of you?
 How many roses
 Are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel
 To be where you are?
 How far is the journey
 From here to a star?

And if I ever lost you
 How much would I cry?
 How deep is the ocean?
 How high is the sky?

So how, may you ask, does this relate to King Lear?  Mr. Greenblatt says:

Actually, Berlin's lyrics strike me as a strange, inverted version of Shakespeare's "King Lear." Early on, Lear asks his three daughters, "Which of you shall we say doth love us most?" "Lear" is built around an aging father's extortion of love. Two of his three daughters flatter him to get his estate, but the third, Cordelia, refuses to say what he wants to hear. When Lear asks her what more she has to say about her love for him, Cordelia replies, "Nothing." To which Lear says, "Nothing will come of nothing." Berlin's lyrics are less forthright but just as emotionally charged.

It took me a little while for me to get exactly what he was saying.  Drum roll, please.  What he is saying is that Lear’s question of “Which of you shall we say doth love us most?" is related to the song’s question, “How much do I love you?”  That’s it?  Yeah, that’s it.  How many questions with the word love in it have been articulated in history?  Probably millions.  Big deal that the questions are similar in a mirrored sort of way?   I doubt Berlin had Lear’s question on his mind when he wrote the song.  If anything, the BeeGees song, “How Deep is Your Love” echoes King Lear’s question than this song.  That’s my head scratching moment.  So much for Harvard professors. 

Nonetheless I really did enjoy the song, and I’m glad I got to learn it.  Greenblatt seems to particularly like the Billy Holiday version.  Personally I think she sings it too upbeat.  Dinah Washington’s version is probably closer to how Berlin intended.  But of all the versions I heard, I fell in love with Ella Fitzgerald’s version.  She slows it down, allowing each phrase to seem like it’s thought out at the moment and weighed inside the heart. 

Plus that tenor sax seems so sad and compliment Fitzgerald’s tone and lower register.  I love it!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Poetry: “The Windhover” by Gerard Manly Hopkins, Part 2

In Part 1 I took you through a reading of the poem, but now I want to expand beyond a reading to an analysis.

Here is the poem in its entirety again so it’s easily before your eyes.

The Windhover

To Christ Our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
   dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
   Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
   As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
   Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing.
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
   Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

   No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
   Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

Let’s first look at this from a language perspective.  Hopkins is known for replicating Anglo-Saxon rhythm and diction.  Certainly the frequent alliteration recalls early and middle English poetry.  And we get as expected from a Hopkins poem many Germanic rooted words: “dapple,” “dawn,” “drawn,” “morning,” “sheer,” “plod,” “plough,” “bleak,” “wimple,” “bow,” “kingdom,” and so on.  What I find remarkable, however, is how many Latinate, and more specifically, French rooted words Hopkins uses.  Notice how many: “minion,” “falcon,” “rein,” “brute,” “billion,” “dauphin,” “sillion,” “vermillion,” “air,” “dangerous,” “lovelier,” and, most conclusively, “chevalier.”  No doubt there is a conscious effort to create a dualistic contrast with diction.  It’s as if the two language roots are crashing together into that very same buckle that the wind and the falcon crash at the heart of the poem.  And what is interesting is how at the center of this is the word “buckle.”  Buckle to me sounds very Germanic/Anglo-Saxon, but when I looked up its etymology, I was surprised to find it comes from French.  The collapsing connotation of buckle comes from the middle French word, boucler, and coupling definition of buckle comes from the old French, bocle.  Not only is the drama of the falcon and wind meet at the word “buckle,” but so does the meeting of the two language groups.  So what is suggested here is an aesthetic of dualism.

Next let’s look at the sequence of metaphors:
1. The falcon as a servant (minion).
2. Falcon as a French aristocrat, a dauphin.
3. The daylight as a kingdom or territory.
4. Flying as if climbing unto a saddle, “rung upon the rein.”
5. Flying as skating on ice.
6. The collision of bird and wind as a joust and collapsing (buckling) of lances.
7. The meeting of bird and wind as a joining (buckled).
8. The collision of bird and wind causes dangerous fire.
9. The falcon as a knight (chevalier).
10. Hot broken embers form a gold shine.

I think those are the major metaphors.  The heart in hiding and stirring is more of a circumlocution than a fully developed metaphor.  So what does this all suggest?  Well, let’s set aside the metaphors that are merely there for descriptive purposes, numbers four, five and ten.  Numbers two and nine coordinate representing the falcon as an aristocratic, French knight.  Why a French knight?  I don’t see any particular reason why the knight needs to be French, but it allows Hopkins to bring in the French-rooted diction to collide with the Germanic/Anglo-Saxon diction.  Number three is a rather interesting metaphor, advancing light from the morning dawn as a territorial expansion, with the falcon then as sovereign.  But number one, in contrast to compared to a king, identifies the falcon as a servant (minion).  Number eight describes a metaphysical discharge from the buckling—in both senses of the word—bird and wind.  Numbers six and seven are the play on the word “buckle” as I outlined in the Part 1 post.

What does that all lead to?  It leads to a complex set of symbols, where the falcon stands for something beyond the mere surface of its being.  That shouldn’t surprise us.  Birds as symbols are a topos, a poetic meme that one frequently encounters.  Consider Keats’ nightingale, Poe’s raven, Stevens’ blackbird, Frosts’ oven bird, Shelley’s skylark, and so on.  Hopkins’ falcon is symbolic for Christ as servant and king, as knight and spirit, as prince of both the air and the dirt, of winged majesty and of humble plow.  Now we see why there is the aesthetic of duality.  It projects toward the double nature of Christ, man and God, flesh and spirit, king and servant, synthesized in His being.  And that brings us back to buckle, where two oppositions clash, discharge, and then couple.  Falcon and wind become one.  Nature, from air to dirt, becomes unified into wholeness, as the body of Christ brings all into unity.

Which brings me to a little controversy I mentioned in Part 1.  If you notice, there is a dedication underneath the title, “To Christ Our Lord.”  The dedication was not in the original writing of the poem, which occurred in 1877.  Hopkins added that seven years later in 1884, presumably because he felt this was his best work and he ought to offer it to our Lord.  According to some who read the poem as strictly a nature poem the suggestion of the falcon representing Christ only was inserted by the addition of the dedication.  Otherwise it’s a poem about a falcon and the hidden divine that is within the natural world, revealed by the energy of the falcon opposing the wind, the shiny, overturned soil, and the gold inside the cracked embers. 

Now the idea does have some merit.  It’s not one of those loony deconstructionist approaches.  It’s actually a New Criticism approach, which isn’t all that new.  It goes back to the 1940s.  Under New Criticism one rejects using the author’s background and the critic’s intuitive reductions and deals strictly with the poem’s text and structure.  Since Christ isn’t formally mentioned in the poem, one might be reading into the poem meaning that wasn’t there.  So was the dedication, the New Criticism critics might ask, added as an afterthought or to lead the reader to the meaning?

Oh I think it’s clear that the falcon symbolizes Christ.  Both servant and King can only suggest Christ.  Those that apply that restrictive a reading could never acknowledge any symbolism in any poetry.  I think the controversy is based on over intellectualizing.

I hope you now understand and appreciate this great poem.  It’s always beneficial to hear the poem read out loud by professional readers.  Here:

Friday, August 15, 2014

Faith Filled Friday: The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

From the Book of Revelations (12:1-6):

1 A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 

2 She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.   
3 Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.   

4 Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. 

5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. 

6 The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God, that there she might be taken care of for twelve hundred and sixty days.

This is the day we celebrate the bodily assumption into heaven of our Blessed Mother.  If you want to read a good piece on why the day is so important, read here from the Catholic news site, aleteia.  

The dignity of the Immaculate Conception is uniquely Mary’s; but the dignity of living body and soul with God, which the Assumption foreshadows, that can be ours. That is, in fact, the great promise Christ offers us; and Mary shows the fulfillment of this promise to us in her Assumption.

And I was directed to this blog, The Jagged Word, of a group of Lutheran pastors, where one of them, Graham Glover, wrote this post, “Protestantism’s Greatest Heresy – Ignoring the Blessed Mother.”  Glover laments the diminution of the Blessed Virgin in Protestant worship. 

Rather, we lump her together with the other saints of the New Testament. But the Blessed Mother is nothing of the sort. She is no ordinary saint. She is the saint of saints. She is the Theotokos – the Mother of God, a title given her at the Council of Ephesus in 431 and echoed in the Lutheran Book of Concord. The Blessed Mother is the example that all Christians should emulate. Her “Yes” to the angel Gabriel is an act of faith that sets the standard for all of the Church to follow.

And he concludes with one of the best homage to our lady that I have come across:

To ignore the Blessed Virgin Mary makes no sense. Without her our Christology is shot. Without her our hermeneutics are insignificant. Without her our understanding of sin and grace is incomplete. Without her we cannot call ourselves part of the Body of Christ. This woman is our Mother, commended to the Church by our Lord Himself. And to ignore her is something no Christian should ever do.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum!

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Notable Quote: On Poetic Language

The poetical language of an age should be the current language heightened.
     ~Gerard Manley Hopkins

That’s a great quote.  That’s what I believe poetic language is all about.  Now it could be arguable that Hopkins practiced it himself.  Certainly his language is heightened, but does he actually employ the current language of his day?  His language in many of his poems, though not all, is so heightened that it could be said that he crossed over into a language of another age, of either a passed age or of an age he created.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Matthew Monday: At Myrtle Beach

I mentioned the other day we are having major work done at our house.  It’s been going on five weeks now, and we are seeing progress.  The living and dining rooms are done, except for a few minor things.  We’ve got a working television finally.  The kitchen has progressed but still behind.  There’s a few floor tile that still needs to be mortared in.  They had miscalculated the quantity and fell short.  So that will be put in when the backsplash behind the countertop is mortared on.  The cabinets are all in and the counter top is on.  We have electric power and ceiling spot lights in, and the microwave is operational.  But still need the plumbing completed and the gas line hooked to the oven.

I also mentioned I took the family away for nearly a week to get away from this.  We drove down to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina.  It’s a ten hour drive, but we broke the trip into two five hour legs in both directions. 

I don’t know what’s so special about Myrtle Beach.   It was a nice beach.  It was not as nice as our trip to Ft. Walton Beach Florida earlier in the year.  That was the purest beach I had ever seen.  I would say Myrtle Beach was as nice as the New Jersey Beaches, which are also very nice, but I could have gone to the Jersey Shore with just a couple of hours driving.  I guess what makes Myrtle Beach renown is their golf courses.  I don’t golf, so I guess that allure was wasted on us.  Still we had a nice time.  The first day we got there the weather was brutal, something like 95F (35C) and 100% humidity.  But it rained at night and the weather was more pleasant, though still hot, the remaining three days. 

Here are some pictures of Matthew at the beach.

With his Batman Beach towel;

No we didn’t dig this hole.  We found it and took it over.

The water was so warm.  I would love to live near an ocean beach with water that warm.

And Matthew just loved the water, though he was afraid to go above his belly.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Art of the Essay: An Ode to the Greatest Cat

I had to come up with a new category for this: an essay by someone I came across that I thought was noteworthy.  Since this is the first of the category, I ought to define what an essay is.  Its etymology derives from the French “assay,” a word with multiple meanings. But of the ones relevant to this topic, consider “to examine or analyze” and perhaps more importantly, “to attempt.”  It is interesting that the French cognate is a verb while the English is a noun, though its use as a verb is in the dictionary, but I can’t say I have ever come across it personally.  When I do think of an essay, I do think of the original French use of an attempt.  It is an attempt to communicate.  I think of it as a reaching out to a reader, an attempt to bridge the gap between writer and whoever wishes to read.

 But an attempt to communicate what?  It’s no coincidence that when we think of essay we think of a school writing assignment.  The primary English definition of the noun is “a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative.”  Most of people’s contact with the essay is in high school English composition class.  We are taught to formulate a thesis, provide supporting argument, and finally a coalescing conclusion.  Wikipedia provides a fuller definition:  

Essays are generally scholarly pieces of writing written from an author's personal point of view, but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of an article, a pamphlet and a short story.

Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. Almost all modern essays are written in prose, but works in verse have been dubbed essays (e.g. Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism and An Essay on Man). While brevity usually defines an essay, voluminous works like John Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding and Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principle of Population are counterexamples. In some countries (e.g., the United States and Canada), essays have become a major part of formal education. Secondary students are taught structured essay formats to improve their writing skills, and admission essays are often used by universities in selecting applicants and, in the humanities and social sciences, as a way of assessing the performance of students during final exams.

Through the use of literary criticism and learned arguments (i.e., term papers) is where most students perfect their skills of writing.  By the latter part of my graduate school, I started incorporating creative elements into my literary essays.  The essay has an incredible flexibility to it, as long as one keeps focused on the thesis argument, and in my latter essays in Grad School I let go of scholarly inhibition and heightened my papers with all sorts of rhetorical twists.  One of my favorite writers, the one whose work I ultimately wrote my Master’s Thesis, D. H. Lawrence, was a brilliant essayist, and at my best writing I felt I was channeling his creative flares. 

Now if the scholarly essay is what we normally encounter in school, what we enjoy to read when out of school is a subset of the essay, known as the personal essay.  In the personal essay we encounter life, as experienced by the author by means of drawing the reader into the experience, much in the way of fiction author, but with the criteria that this experience actually happened.  In the introduction to The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present (a must have book for lovers of literature, by the way), editor Phillip Lopate attempts to reach a definition:  

The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy.  The writer seems to be speaking directly into your ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom.  Through sharing thoughts, memories, desires, complaints, and whimsies, the personal essayist sets up a relationship with the reader, a dialogue—a friendship, if you will, based on identification, understanding, testiness, and companionship.
                        (p. xxiii, Anchor Books/Doubleday, New York, 1994)

Now that I have introduced you to what a personal essay is, here is a wonderful example I just came across that makes for a touching read: “An Ode to Sophie,the World’s Greatest Tabster,” by Lee Cheeks from The Imaginative Conservative.  I’ll just provide the central paragraph:

Guided by the inspiration of Grandpa Cheek and Russell Amos Kirk, even though closed to the prospect of having a feline in our house, some openness emerged after making a professional transition to Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, an exemplary liberal arts college. My wife, Kathy, convinced me that we needed a cat. I was adamantly opposed to the prospect initially, but my life experiences allowed me to consider the possibility. In August of 2000, I walked gently into a pet store on Keith Street in Cleveland, Tennessee, and a beautiful tab cat kitten with white paws ran up to me without provocation; her paws glistened in the bright lights of the store, suggesting she had chosen me as her new factotum. Little did I know that this kitten would change my life. In a day or so we brought Sophie to our Georgia Bell Circle home. Sophie was an adorable kitten, not in the typical sense that all kittens are adorable; she seemed to be able to discern your attitude and you intentions, and responded in due course. At the beginning of her first night with us, we placed her in the kitchen, and between the kitchen and the dining room we placed an inflatable bed (vertically) so as to block exit from the kitchen. Sophie cried and obviously wanted to spend the evening with us, but she eventually settled down and we went to sleep. Much to our surprise and excitement, in middle of the night, she was able to make her way into our bedroom, overcoming the “great wall” we had placed in her way! We quickly discerned that Sophie was unstoppable and unflappable, even in the midst of difficult situations. As she overcame her inflatable bed as barricade, she would overcome many challenges during her twelve years on this earth.

All pet lovers will instantly connect, and though I’m a dog person, I have to say this made me want to go out and bring home a cat.  The essay strikes me as a classical example of the personal essay form: an introduction that provides the context and initial conflict, a personal narrative that draws the reader into the experience, a climatic conclusion, and an epilogue that frames the experience into some sort of insight.  Like all personal essays done well, it was a joy to read.