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Editor s Notes Among the many reasons for the current resurgence ofcreative nonfiction is what you might caU the moral popvflism ofthe form. Its skillful practitioners remind us that seemingly ordinary, even ephemeral happenings—a train whisde, a snow faU, the smeUs ofa mother's cooking—often hold the key to unlocking extraordinary insight into famüy culture, personal history, place and time. Many of the writers featured in this issue's "Essays and Memoirs" section successfuUy work this ground. In "A Brief History of Thyme: Cosmology on the Corner Lot," for example, MeUssa Haertsch shows how a dachshund rifling through a neighbor's trash can sets in motion a chain of events that forever transforms the physical and social landscape ofher neighborhood , altering the course of history and the inexorable track of time. A shard ofsunUght glancing offanArctic river turns Dan Gerber's fly fishing trip, chronicled in "Notebook ofanArctic Explorer," into a fruitful expedition into the significance of his Ufe "below the tree Une." The thin, shrfll reed of a nighdy train whistle invites EUzabeth Andrew ("On Shining Rails") into a deeply layered meditation on childhood, community and the invisible web of destiny that cradles aU ofus in a shared place and time. How easy it would be to overlook the detested weeds in our own back yard until Sarah Scalei ("Confessions of a Weed-Hugger: Or, Browsing Chaos") takes a dandeUon and makes it coveted and loved, a beacon ofinfinite possibflities. AU of these writers find sharable insight in the unique particulars of their experience, the universe in a grain ofsand. In Patrick Madden's Uvely and fascinating interview with the Uruguayan writer and iconoclast Eduardo Galeano featured in the foUowing pages, Galeano discusses what it means as a writer to be "a voice ofvoices.""Deep down," Galeano says, "we aU contain many people even though we don't know it." In Uberating these common voices, the personal essay becomes the most democratic among nonfiction Editor's Notesvii subgenres. "It is in the Utde excursions and smaU observations," writer and editor W Scott Olson concludes, "that we can discover ourselves, that we can make an honest connection with others, that we can remind ourselves ofwhat it means to belong to one another." Consider a couple of final examples from the pieces that bookend our "Essays and Memoirs" section: "Haywire" by Macy Swain and Linda Lawson's "FoUowing Nancy Home." Although these essays ostensibly cover an older sister's visit and a particular panhandler working Harvard Square, we come away knowing Swain and Lawson's stories intimately as if they were our own. Who hasn't suffered some ambivalence over a sibUng and felt the dance ofgenes that, despite aU our differences, makes us "deeply aUke"?Who hasn't had occasion to resist the pifll ofsocial conscience and the caU to charity when the circumstances ofyour own Ufe are less than flush and rosy? It is doubtful that Swain and Lawson could have gotten us as close to the center ofthese subjects' moral gravity by using more expository forms Uke the feature story, polemic, commentary, or reportage. The moral populism hard at work in aU these personal essays reminds us that every life worth living is one weU worth writing about. That claim no doubt accounts for the hundreds ofsubmissions we receive for each issue ofFourth Genre. What distinguishes one from the others is the subject of this issue's roundtable—"The Art of the Personal Essay." "Writing," Steven Harvey sums up in his introduction,"becomes art the moment that we care as much about the way it says what it says as we do about what it says." We asked a group ofwriters and writing teachers to explore that "way." What is particularly useful about their conversation is how they treat technical concepts —imagery,juxtaposition, narrative Une, closure, etc.—as open invitations to aspiring writers "to take risks on the page," as Scott Sanders put it in a previous Fourth Genre interview, "to venture out from famiUar territory into the blank places on those maps." In an effort to keep the conversation over Uterary nonfiction chaUenging and open to diverse perspectives and voices, we inaugurate a new...


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