Friday, August 26, 2011

Annotated Table of Contents: Essays 01

A Collection of Essays. George Orwell. Includes the well-known essay, “Politics and the English Language.”

The Essays of E.B. White. E.B. White believes that what he finds interesting to write about others will find interesting to read. He is well known for his work at the New Yorker magazine. He was a superior stylist in writing. He is co-author with William Strunk of Elements of Style, a thin reference book on writing that is often quoted by people in the field of writing.

Montaigne: Selected Essays. Montaigne’s thoughts on life provoke our thoughts on life.

Essays and Lectures. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson will make you think. He writes in sentences, each sentence suggestive, freighted with ideas. His sentences are like the stone skipping across the pool—each idea leading to other ideas in never-ending concentric circles. He writes in prose, but his images create poetry. When you read Emerson, be ready to think and to reflect for surprisingly long periods.

Sketches by Boz. Charles Dickens. A collection of brief scenes of English life that are wonderfully entertaining and sometimes quite moving.

The Spectator, Volume One. Addison, Steele and Others. Ed. Gregory Smith.  The Spectator essays were not sermons. They amused. They were short. They made fun of anything that was not common sense. They recommended good manners by making fun of awkward and clumsy manners. The authors’ contemporaries recognized the targets of their humor. The authors also commented thoughtfully on life.

The Spectator, Volume Two. Addison, Steele and Others. Ed. Gregory Smith. In a way the Spectator Papers fulfilled the need for the “Dear Abby” of the 18th century. Unlike Abby’s plain statements, short sentences and familiar vocabulary, the sentences in the Spectator Papers are sometimes convoluted and lengthy, and the vocabulary stretches the reader, but the purpose of the Spectator is similar to Abby’s, to resolve problems by using common sense.

The Star Thrower. Loren Eiseley. Loren Eiseley is a remarkable essayist. A professional scientist, a paleontologist, he used words with a skill of a literary artist. Unlike scientists, who often analyze and dissect to kill, Eiseley retained his understanding of the mystery of life. His essays are unforgettable in the sense that the reader will spend considerable time thinking about their meaning.

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