They seem incompetent at the over-and-above stuff. I believe maybe it goes on inside their heads they are incapable of catching it as they read but. They truly are too directly intent on the reading. They cant get started looking two ways at once. I believe too they are scared of the simplicity of many things they think regarding the side as they read. They wouldn’t have the face in order to connect it on paper with all the great author they have been reading. It might be a childhood memory; it could be some homely simile; it could be a line or verse of mother goose. They need it to be bookish and big. But they haven’t books enough inside their heads to complement book stuff with book stuff. Needless to say a number of that could be all right.
Indeed, in several ways Frost’s advice on essay-writing is actually suggestions about reading — that mutuality of thought between reader and writer, pulsed through because of the written book as “a heart that only beats within the chest of some other.” Echoing Virginia Woolf’s dictum on the best way to read a book, Frost offers counsel so passionate so it becomes almost a stream-of-consciousness prose poem, barely punctuated:
The overall game is matching your author thought for thought in just about any of many ways that are possible. Reading then becomes that are converse and take. It is only conversation in which the reader takes part addressing himself to anything at all within the author in his subject material or form. Just as when we talk together! Being careful to hold up our end and to do our part agreeably without an excessive amount of contradiction and mere opinionation. The smartest thing of all is certainly going each other one better mounting up the ideas anecdotes and incidents like alternating hands piled up in the knee. Well its out of conversation similar to this with a novel that you find perhaps one idea perhaps yours possibly the book’s that will serve for any other lesser tips to center around. And there’s your essay.
He lands from this poetic elation into some practical advice:
Be brief to start with. You should be honest. You don’t want which will make your material seem more than it is. You won’t have a great deal to state in the beginning as you will have later. My defect is in not having learned to hammer my material into one lump. I haven’t had experience enough. The details of essay won’t come in right for me because they will in narrative. Sometimes We have gotten around the difficulty by some narrative dodge.
Take it simple with the essay anything you do. Write it as well if you have to write it as you can. Be as concrete as the law allows inside it — concrete and experiential. Don’t allow it to scare you. Don’t strain. Understand that any old thing that occurs in your head you want as you read may be the thing. If nothing much seems to happen, perhaps another reading will help. Perhaps the book is bad or is not your kind — is absolutely nothing to you and can start nothing in your nature one way or another.
He interjects a meta-remark regarding the nature — and naturalness — regarding the essay form:
Of course this letter is essay. It really is material that has arrived at the surface of my mind in reading just like frost brings stones towards the surface of the ground.
At the very end, before signing off “Affectionately Papa,” Frost can’t resist taking only a little jab during the essay, voicing the sentiment that generally seems to explain his very own lifelong resistance to partaking into the genre:
I don’t know you know whether its worth very that is much mean the essay — when you yourself have it written. I’m rather afraid of it as an enemy to the writing that is really creative holds scenes and things when you look at the eye voices when you look at the ear and whole situations as a kind of plexus within the body (I don’t know just where).
Lesley spent my youth to be an author herself, albeit not of essays — she published two books of stories for the kids: Really Not Really in 1962, published mere months before her father’s death, and Digging Down to China in 1968.
The Letters of Robert Frost is a trove of writerly wisdom and heartwarming parental advice to the poet’s six children, of whom Lesley and her sister Irma outlived their father in its portly 850-page totality. Complement it with Frost’s beautiful poem on art and government, that he designed to but didn’t read at JFK’s inauguration, and F. Scott Fitzgerald from the secret of great writing in a letter of advice to his very own daughter, then revisit this growing library of writers’ advice on writing.
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