Memorable Lines: John D’Agata

Drawing by Janani Sreenivasan, 2006

Drawing by Janani Sreenivasan, 2006


I think essayists write for the sake of preservation; in order to find solutions to problems, in order to remain intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually awake amidst the full rumbling fury of the world. “An essay that becomes a lyric,” Plutarch once wrote, presumably about his own formally wayward work, “is an essay that has killed itself.” A prose line can stave off this death for as long as the seams of its syntax hold. And when they fail to hold, a run-on can seem less a sloppy piece of grammar than a desperate act to stay alive.

from The Next American Essay, John D’Agata

John D’Agata is the author of Halls of Fame, a collection of essays published by Graywolf Press in 2001, and the editor ofThe Next American Essay, an anthology of innovative modern American nonfiction. His forthcoming books include The Lifespan of a Fact, a meditation on the Yucca Mountain Project in southwest Nevada, and two historical companions to The Next American Essay. He has taught at Colgate University, Columbia, and the California Institute of the Arts and is the editor of lyric essays for Seneca Review.

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