Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Philip Lopate.
Phillip is the author of over a dozen books:
- 4 personal essay collections (Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Portrait Inside my Head), as well as Being with Children, Waterfront, and Notes on Sontag
- 3 works of fiction (Confessions of Summer, The Rug Merchant, and Two Marriages)
- 3 poetry collections (The Eyes Don’t Always Want to Stay Open, The Daily Round, and At the End of the Day).
He has also edited several anthologies, including one of my personal favorites—Art of the Personal Essay—and he’s the author of To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction.
He is a professor in Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
In this episode Phillip Lopate and I discuss:
- Why you need to have some things you haven’t worked out when you begin to write an essay.
- The ground rules, selection process, and organizational structure for his three volume anthology.
- What qualities make for a great essay, what can kill a piece, and the role the past plays.
Plus, his #1 tip for writers.
About Phillip Lopate
Phillip Lopate is the author of over a dozen books: 4 personal essay collections (Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Portrait Inside my Head), as well as Being with Children, Waterfront, and Notes on Sontag; three works of fiction (Confessions of Summer, The Rug Merchant, and Two Marriages), 3 poetry collections (The Eyes Don’t Always Want to Stay Open, The Daily Round, and At the End of the Day). He has also edited several anthologies (Art of the Personal Essay, American Movie Critics, and Writing New York). He is a professor in Columbia University’s MFA Writing Program, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The Glorious American Essay
A monumental, canon-defining anthology of three centuries of American essays, from Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin to David Foster Wallace and Zadie Smith.
The essay form is an especially democratic one, and many of the essays Phillip Lopate has gathered here address themselves–sometimes critically–to American values. Even in those that don’t, one can detect a subtext about being American.
The Founding Fathers and early American writers self-consciously struggle to establish a recognizable national culture. The shining stars of the mid-nineteenth-century American Renaissance no longer lack confidence but face new reckonings with the oppression of blacks and women. The New World tradition of nature writing runs from Audubon, Thoreau, and John Muir to Rachel Carson and Annie Dillard. Marginalized groups in all periods use the essay to assert or to complicate notions of identity.
Lopate has cast his net intentionally wide, embracing critical, personal, political, philosophical, humorous, literary, polemical, and autobiographical essays, and making room for sermons, letters, speeches, and columns dealing with a wide variety of subjects. Americans by birth as well as immigrants appear here, famous essayists alongside writers more celebrated for fiction or poetry. The result is an extensive overview of the endless riches of the American essay.
The Golden Age of the American Essay: 1945-1970
A one-of-a-kind anthology of American essays on a wide range of subjects by a dazzling array of mid-century writers at the top of their form.
The three decades that followed World War II were an exceptionally fertile period for American essays. The explosion of journals and magazines, the rise of public intellectuals, and breakthroughs in the arts inspired a flowering of literary culture. At the same time, the many problems that confronted mid-century America–racism, sexism, nuclear threat, war, poverty, and environmental degradation among them–proved fruitful topics for America’s best minds. In The Golden Age of the American Essay, Phillip Lopate assembles a dazzling array of famous writers, critics, sociologists, theologians, historians, activists, theorists, humorists, poets, and novelists. Here are writers like James Agee, E. B. White, A. J. Liebling, Randall Jarrell, and Mary McCarthy, pivoting from the comic indignities of daily life to world peace, consumerism, and restaurants in Paris. Here is Norman Mailer on Jackie Kennedy, Vladimir Nabokov on Lolita, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Richard Hofstadter’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Here are Gore Vidal, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, John Updike, Joan Didion, and many more, in a treasury of brilliant writing that has stood the test of time.
The Contemporary American Essay
A dazzling anthology of essays by some of the best writers of the past quarter century–from Barry Lopez and Margo Jefferson to David Sedaris and Samantha Irby–selected by acclaimed essayist Phillip Lopate.
The first decades of the twenty-first century have witnessed a blossoming of creative nonfiction. In this extraordinary collection, Phillip Lopate gathers essays by forty-seven of America’s best contemporary writers, mingling long-established eminences with newer voices and making room for a wide variety of perspectives and styles. The Contemporary American Essay is a monument to a remarkably adaptable form and a treat for anyone who loves fantastic writing.
Hilton Als • Nicholson Baker • Thomas Beller • Sven Birkerts • Eula Biss • Mary Cappello • Anne Carson • Terry Castle • Alexander Chee • Teju Cole • Bernard Cooper • Sloane Crosley • Charles D’Ambrosio • Meghan Daum • Brian Doyle • Geoff Dyer • Lina Ferreira • Lynn Freed • Rivka Galchen • Ross Gay • Louise Glück • Emily Fox Gordon • Patricia Hampl • Aleksandar Hemon • Samantha Irby • Leslie Jamison • Margo Jefferson • Laura Kipnis • David Lazar • Yiyun Li • Phillip Lopate • Barry Lopez • Thomas Lynch • John McPhee • Ander Monson • Eileen Myles • Maggie Nelson • Meghan O’Gieblyn • Joyce Carol Oates • Darryl Pinckney • Lia Purpura • Karen Russell • David Sedaris • Shifra Sharlin • David Shields • Floyd Skloot • Rebecca Solnit • Clifford Thompson • Wesley Yang
If you decide to check out the books, we hope you’ll do so via these Amazon affiliate links: The Glorious American Essay, The Golden Age of the American Essay: 1945-1970 and The Contemporary American Essay where if you choose to purchase via the link DIY MFA gets a referral fee at no cost to you. As always, thank you for supporting DIY MFA!
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