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Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot | Against the Contemporary American Essay

Jackson Arn

What the face mask is to American society, the essay is to American literature: deceptively slight, heroically versatile, centuries old but lately a subject of great interest — not because it’s doing anything new, but because everything else is falling apart.

The essay, James Wood wrote in The New Yorker, “has for some time now been gaining energy as an escape from, or rival to, the perceived conservatism of much mainstream fiction.” That was in 2011. How far back “some time” extends isn’t clear — to 1986, maybe, when someone at Houghton Mifflin decided that readers might be interested in a collection of The Best American Essays, not just The Best American Short Stories (an institution since World War I); or 1998, when the Library of America put out a long-overdue edition of James Baldwin’s collected essays; or some point in the early Obama years, when celebrities stopped slapping their names on memoirs and started slapping their names on essay collections instead.

Since 2011, in any case, essays have outsold mainstream fiction and outranked it on best-of-the-year lists. Essays have actually become mainstream fiction, too, thanks to the success of books like Open City by Teju Cole and 10:04 by Ben Lerner, to name two 2010s favorites that read more like essays than novels. Nowadays when someone comes out with a long, plotless piece of prose that’s, say, 50 percent memoir, 30 percent travel diary, and 20 percent book reviews already published as standalone magazine articles, it hardly bears pointing out. In a decade when other literary forms have wobbled — audiences distracted, institutional support depleted — the essay has thrived, maybe because it was lean and scrappy to begin with.

This is strange, because nobody knows what an essay is, or so our leading essayists proudly insist. The genre is often spoken of as though it’s too elusive for any single mind to grasp, like a Zen koan or the Lost finale. For Brian Dillon, such an authority on the essay that he authored a book called Essayism, it’s “unbounded and mobile, a form with ambitions to be unformed.” Mary Cappello, one of the most respected essayists around, claims the essay is actually a “non-genre,” mutating too fast for diagnosis. To be fair, Montaigne, widely considered the first essayist, didn’t know what essays were, either, but he also didn’t proclaim, over and over, that he didn’t know — he just kept writing them. These days, the essay has never been more rigidly obsessed with its own misty indefinability.

This state of affairs didn’t stop Anchor Books from publishing The Contemporary American Essay, a mega-anthology edited by the venerable essayist, professor, and seven-time Anchor essay anthology editor Phillip Lopate. As a cross-section of essays written in the young millennium, it’s undeniably wide-ranging: some of the writers are famous, but many I’d never heard of; age-wise, most fall in the 40-60 range, but there are some millennials and octogenarians on either side of the bell curve; many originally published their contributions in Harper’s, The New Yorker, and the like, but others wrote theirs for journals and magazines with readerships that could fit in a subway car.

It’s a mark of the form’s success over the last few decades that nearly all the pieces in this book were originally published as essays. Para- and quasi-essays, by contrast, took up much of the last two anthologies Lopate edited for Anchor. For most of America’s history, it would seem, the essay really was a non-genre, smuggled into the canon via the sermon (Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”), the political oration (Lincoln’s second inaugural address), the letter (Frederick Douglass’s “To My Old Master, Thomas Auld”), and the excerpted book (Henry David Thoreau’s “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For,” from Walden). In The Contemporary American Essay, the essay is out and proud so in love with its own idiosyncrasies that it expects everyone else to love them, too. Consider the following, originally published in Ander Monson’s 2007 collection Neck Deep:

​​. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . but again the wreck suggests the vase . . . . . . . . . . . . . the fragment evokes the once-whole torso . . . . . . . . . . . . . . the car glass scattered on the road, the flash and burn . . . . . . tire-squeal, whiplash, and fire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and it is maybe better to have failed at this . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . than to have poured it all out on the page. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . simple, whole, unmediated, all too easily . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The ellipses keep going, and going, and going, dirtying the page like mouse shit on the attic floor, but you get the idea. This isn’t just a specimen of contemporary essayism but an unintentional spoof: notice the fossilized phrases failing to be lyrical (“tire-squeal”); the fridge-magnet formulations failing to make sense (torsos are fragments, right?); the weird punctuation failing to be formally daring. Notice, most tellingly, the way that failure itself is presented as the height of sophistication, not because it’s truer or righter or more beautiful than success, but because success would be too easy. Even the title — “Failure: A Meditation” — is the glitteriest comic gold.

In his introduction, Lopate calls Monson’s work “unshackled.” One of the funniest essays ever written, Lopate’s own 1986 classic “Against Joie de Vivre” (given the Anchor anthology treatment back in 1997) is partly about the phony niceness of dinner party chit-chat; “unshackled” is what you might say if you ran into Monson at a dinner party and had to scramble for a compliment. Essayists are ambivalent about everything (especially essays), but still, it’s not hard to see that Lopate’s heart isn’t quite in this anthology: his introduction has the grim enthusiasm of a rec letter for a B+ student whose parents bought the university a new library. In “Experience Necessary,” his own contribution to the volume, he confesses his indifference to New Yorker court jester David Sedaris and his incomprehension of David Shields, who argued in his manifesto Reality Hunger for blurring the boundary between fact and fiction — yet both Davids have made the cut. The early twenty-first century, Lopate allows, has been “what many would deem an exceptionally good period for literary nonfiction — if not a golden one, then at least a silver.” The last anthology he edited was called The Golden Age of the American Essay, 1945-1970, so, fine, “silver,” fair enough. But why the lawyerly dodge of “what many would deem,” as though Lopate doesn’t count himself among the many? Why not just deem?

 

The Contemporary American Essay (let’s call it TCAE) is not the contemporary American essay. I hope not, anyway. With each page, a non-genre looks more and more generic; a proudly unbounded form is bound tighter than a tourniquet. Some of the essays in here are good and others are extraordinary. But the essay, as Lopate has said repeatedly, is the intellectual bellwether of its age, the first and rawest draft of a generation’s thoughts. It’s the laboratory in which thinkers get to mess around, unfrazzled by plot and characterization and symbolism, and occasionally stumble upon literary penicillin. In TCAE, the thinkers mostly just stumble.

“Perhaps nothing has so shaped the contemporary practice of essay writing,” Lopate notes, “as the rise of the personal essay.” This is putting it mildly. Of TCAE’s 47 contributions, I count only four not written primarily in the first person, and most of the remaining 43 include hefty portions of autobiography. It’s not just that contemporary American essayists are writing about themselves, as essayists have always done; autobiography has a way of slipping in and pushing its way toward the camera, whether the subject is detective fiction (Rivka Galchen’s “The Case of the Angry Daughter”), brain damage (Floyd Skloot’s “Gray Area: Thinking with a Damaged Brain”) loitering (Charles D’Ambrosio’s “Loitering”), or illness (an excerpt from Eula Biss’s On Immunity). More restrained first-person essayists who acknowledge themselves here and there but politely retreat behind their subject for long stretches — the Joyce Carol Oates of “A Visit to San Quentin Prison,” say, or the Anne Carson of “Decreation” — are hard to find, and as you might guess, they’re among TCAE’s older contributors. (Carson is 71, Oates 83.)

By a happy quirk of alphabetical order, TCAE starts off interrogating the autobiographical impulse to which most of its authors eagerly surrender: “I am Louise Brooks,” writes Hilton Als, “whom no man will ever possess.” He’s not, as a matter of fact, but it’s thrilling to watch him pretend to be, and a reminder of how disorientingly new a great essay feels. Most of the I’s in TCAE, however, are regular old I’s, mulling over their own pasts, families, and romances. A significant chunk of the essays concern some kind of nightmarish personal tragedy, subjects for which the first person seems not just suitable but unavoidable: there are dead parents and dead children, hideous diseases, suicides. But other I’s seem harder to justify. Meghan O’Gieblyn writes brilliantly and surprisingly about the history of pedagogy but with mere textbook flawlessness about her childhood. (If writing well were the same thing as writing without conspicuous flaws, TCAE would be a near-masterpiece.) Sometimes you get the sense that she’s writing in the first person because everybody else is doing it these days. The idea that you could write an essay about detective fiction or brain damage simply because these are interesting topics comes to seem almost nonsensical. The idea that you could write about cancer without once mentioning that you have cancer, as Susan Sontag did in the New York Review of Books in 1978, comes to seem positively inhuman. Personal experience with the subject at hand, TCAE implies dozens of times over, must be announced wherever possible, and if it’s not possible, you’re probably better off writing about something else.

Explanations for the twenty-first-century personal essay boom are as various as the answers to an inkblot test, and nearly as revealing: Vivian Gornick, writing in The Yale Review, traces it all the way back to her youth, via the waning of modernism and the rise of the Holocaust memoir; Jia Tolentino, writing in The New Yorker, suspects the feminism-inflected internet economies that helped make her a star. “Identity politics” is probably the single most popular theory, though somehow that trivializes the situation and gives the publishing industry too much credit at the same time. Exact diagnoses will go on being debated, in any case, but in TCAE the effects are clear enough: when you only write about what you’ve experienced personally, you miss a lot. A partial list of urgent contemporary American issues this book outright ignores or barely acknowledges in 640 pages would have to include climate change, the surveillance state, the Great Recession, the internet and social media, and the War on Terror. If the essay really is the intellectual bellwether of an age, America seems to have spent the last twenty years missing the big picture again and again.

Ideas — ambitious, original ones — are unicorn-rare in this book. It’s not even clear that Lopate would disagree: the personal essay boom seems to have left little room for the kinds of big-picture essays with which he stuffed the last two Anchor anthologies. But an introduction is no place for grumbling, and so he finds a silver lining: “There seems to be a trade-off: more heat, urgency, diaristic excitement, less perspective.” What contemporary American essayists lack in clear thinking, in other words, they make up for in passion. And the twenty-first century is a passionate era, apparently. “The first quarter of the twenty-first century has been an uneasy time of rupture and anxiety,” Lopate writes, and the result has been an “outpouring of new and older voices responding to this perplexing moment in a form uniquely amenable to the processing of uncertainty.” Hard to disagree. But by “processing,” he seems to mean something between accepting and celebrating. Well-argued, logical essays are still getting written, Lopate allows, but in uneasy times they may be a little out of step with the zeitgeist. Failure to find the truth is “its own valid truth, matching as it does the spirit of our deeply unsure and divided age.” Hence the glut of fragmented, fuzzy essays like “Failure: A Meditation,” with, as Lopate gently puts it, “pieces that connect intuitively or emotionally if not logically.”

This all sounds fine, until you try to name the last age that wasn’t hot, urgent, ruptured, anxious, deeply unsure, and divided. If Richard Hofstadter’s essays could revolutionize political science in the midst of McCarthyism, what’s stopping some Bush-era scribbler from careful cogitation in the midst of the Iraq War? (And there are American essayists who’ve written about Iraq with perspective and passion; Lopate just doesn’t see fit to include them.) Mightn’t well-argued, logical essays be more important than ever in chaotic times? And why can’t essays be both urgent and logical? Just because contemporary American life is confusing doesn’t mean contemporary American essayists have to be ceaselessly, affectedly confused.

 

And yet many of the essayists in TCAE seem oddly determined not to think clearly. They consider many options, it’s true, but existence is usually too chaotic for anything further. In lieu of a final, definite decision (which would require perspective, that problematic thing), the essayists leave behind a mess of maybes and perhapses and hot, urgent rhetorical questions that dare you to scream yes! or no! or sure, why not, who cares! It is difficult to convey the experience of getting through hundreds and hundreds of these kinds of questions: “Perhaps that’s going too far” (O’Gieblyn) … “perhaps I’m falling into confusion” (Emily Fox Gordon) … “Perhaps this is enough of a reason to journey on” (Yiyun Li)… “Perhaps the first rule of everything we endeavor to do is to pay attention” (Barry Lopez) … “this is perhaps instructive” (good old Monson, failing to instruct) … “Perhaps I’m projecting” (Gordon again).

I could go on, but then I’d be falling into the same trap many of these essayists fall into — privileging what feels true over what’s demonstrably true, wallowing in the anecdotal without so much as a touch of dry precision. In the interest of objectivity, I tallied up every “perhaps” (81) and “maybe” (157) in TCAE and divided by total word count (234,703), and then gave The Glorious American Essay, an earlier, non-contemporary Anchor anthology edited by Lopate, the same treatment (there were also two “perchance”s). The digital humanities aren’t perfect, but judging strictly by the numbers, essayists are (or act) about 1.9 times as uncertain as their predecessors from the days before there was a free tool for instantly learning things.

Not that I didn’t learn things from TCAE. It’s just that most of what I learned was about the origins of words, which seem to be the only things contemporary essayists aren’t confused about. Before picking up this book, I had no idea how dearly they love structuring their musings around an iffy etymology or definition, as if they’re delivering a motivational speech or a wedding toast. Did you know that “immune” comes from the Latin immunis, which means “without obligations”? Or that “empathy” comes from the Greek empatheia, which literally means “into feeling”? Or that the financial definition of “trust” reminds some people, or at least Eula Biss, of parenthood?

The point, here as in a wedding, seems to be to spice up undercooked thoughts. When the best man raises his champagne flute and says, “Webster’s defines love as,” it doesn’t really matter what he says next; citing the dictionary is an easy way of conveying authority and intelligence. There’s nothing wrong with Greek and Latin roots done right: when Rebecca Solnit, in a superb essay on the longstanding connection between sexual freedom and distrusting women, points out that “‘Hysteria’ derives from the Greek word for ‘uterus,’ and the extreme emotional state it denotes was once thought to be due to a wandering womb,” she compresses her argument into a single dazzling sentence. The same can’t be said for Floyd Skloot. The word “insult,” he explains in the midst of a meditation on neurology, comes from the Latin insultare, which means “to jump on,” with connotations of contempt. Interesting, but a few sentences later Skloot’s complaining that the phrase “insult to the brain” is nonsensical, because brains can’t literally be treated with contempt. This happens to be true, but the English language is full of non-literal words. (If I said reading TCAE gave me a “panic attack,” Skloot would understand that nothing is literally attacking me.) Why bring up Latin at all if he’s going to snatch it back a paragraph later?

It’s no fun asking these kinds of questions — but then, the essays in TCAE all but challenge you to spoil their fun, dressing questionable claims in phrases so fetching it’s tempting to accept one as the price of the other. “We all churn inside. So much held in a heart in a lifetime,” Brian Doyle writes, which also sounds suspiciously like a wedding toast. “As a genre,” Rivka Galchen observes in “The Case of the Angry Daughter,” echoing Lopate, “the detective story has often found popularity at moments of great social upheaval,” which is one of this book’s countless smart-sounding pronouncements that turn out to be trivially correct: every moment is witness to some great social upheaval or other.

“The Case of the Angry Daughter” could be the essay-est essay in TCAE. It toggles between two halves: an expository, third-person survey of detective fiction and psychoanalysis, and a personal narrative about Galchen’s child G.’s mysterious anxiety, with lots of short, unadorned, present-tense sentences that may inspire rapture or boredom, depending on how many similar pieces you’ve read: “Maybe G. is asking for some shadow, for some benign neglect. Maybe kindergarten is somewhat difficult for her, but what’s even more difficult is that I can tell it’s difficult for her. Part of what is frustrating as a child is that everyone knows your business. Or maybe not.”

There are lots of maybes and maybe nots in this essay, even by TCAE’s impressive standards, and I suspect that they’re not inspired by the subject so much as demanded by the form — that, as with Skloot’s tour of insultare, they’re carefully, artfully tangled, present not because they reflect a parent’s anxiety so much as because they reflect an essayist’s artful, studied confusion. Detective fiction usually ends with the revelation of some important truth, of course, but no important truths make themselves known to Galchen as her essay reaches its end. No matter: “The not-knowing part,” she asserts, “is more essential than the knowing.” In lieu of knowledge, rhetorical questions are prettily arranged around non-answers — e.g., “Why does a Halloween pumpkin matter so much? What overwhelming story or fear or feeling has been Trojan-horsed inside? I don’t know.” I can imagine essayists from earlier generations writing something like this about their children. I’m not sure I can imagine any of them giving “I don’t know” its own paragraph.

Confusion, and its classier cousin, ambivalence, have always had their place in essay-writing. What becomes clear as you make your way through “The Case of the Angry Daughter” and the rest of TCAE, however, is that ambivalence is most compelling when it’s arrived at, not assumed from the start. Uncertainty is made of a thousand competing certainties: it needs the rival tugs of reason. When it doesn’t emerge from a good-faith struggle to find something out, it becomes slack, wishy-washy, complacent.

 

The good essays in TCAE have a few of the same ingredients (expertise, rigor, wit, enthusiasm, insight), but never mixed the same way. It’s unclear where Anne Carson is going for long portions of “Decreation,” but you follow eagerly because she knows what she’s talking about, be it Simone Weil or the meaning of the Greek word zelos (no iffy etymologies for her). “Home Alone,” Terry Castle’s glorious rant on interior design, is more of a sprint, style-wise (em-dashes, parentheses, smartly placed rhetorical questions), which makes sense for an essay powered by enthusiasm rather than expertise. Louise Glück’s “On Revenge” is the rare piece of writing that depicts the young — the young Glück herself, to be exact — as complex and wicked and altogether adult, and it makes most of the other essay-narrators in TCAE look like goody-goodies.

Cappello and Dillon declare the essay unbounded and unformed, but I’m going to be pedantic and suggest a rule: the best essayists, like the best people, don’t worry too much about being popular. When essayists try too hard to be liked, everybody can tell; the more they try to emphasize their own likability — e.g., “Dave and I first kissed in a Maryland basement at three in the morning on our way to Newport News to canvass for Obama in 2008,” from Leslie Jamison’s essay — the more awkward the effort seems. When we do like an essay, it’s not because we agree with the writer’s politics or feel her pain; it’s because of the way she interprets her subject (which may be politics or pain or both). Interest, not sympathy or solidarity, is the thing. And maybe I can squeeze a second rule out of this: all good essays are personal, but not for the obvious reason. Not, that is, because they feature lots of Is and autobiography (though sometimes they do), but because they’re a frottage of the writer’s brain, a record of her innermost quality: the way she thinks.

Good essays are personal, then, but in a way that transcends differences between essay-writer and essay-reader. In too much of TCAE, the personal stays personal. “Everything is autobiography now,” the critic and novelist Gary Indiana said in an interview with Benjamin Moser in 2019, “and it’s not helpful to people. It’s only helpful to the people writing the autobiographies.” The very idea of helping readers — pleasing them, teaching them something worth knowing, making them laugh — is made to seem faintly impolite in these pages; too many of these essays end with an implicit go fetch!, as though the reader were the essayist’s therapist, puzzling over stacks of notes to figure out where it all went wrong.

The contemporary American essay’s bad habits add up to an etiquette in TCAE, and the etiquette is that of the contemporary middle-class dinner table — a grown-up, slightly tipsy dinner table, but still recognizably middle-class in its neuroses. Childhood is next to saintliness. Confessions of wrongdoing are acceptable for conversation only when they’re spiked with sympathetic tragedy. Politics is acceptable, but too often as a form of self-actualization or humblebraggery (e.g., “Dave and I first kissed in a Maryland basement at three in the morning on our way to Newport News to canvass for Obama in 2008” — I know I quoted that one already, but ugh). The big taboo throughout most of this book is money. Writing unsqueamishly about class, inherited wealth, financial success, etc. would be indecorous. It might make the essayists — heaven forbid — less likable.

Like most people who work hard at being liked, these essayists nurse serious guilt, and some equally serious hubris. For every Margo Jefferson, ruthlessly capable of assessing her own rung on the social ladder in her memoir of black bourgeois childhood, Negroland, TCAE has five Thomas Bellers melodramatizing their climbs. “I was a fledgling writer,” Beller writes in an essay about his gig at a deli, “with a graduate degree, a couple of publications, and a few jobs under my belt — bike messenger, gallery assistant, office temp.” One of the publications is a short story in The New Yorker. The poor wretch! “I took these jobs to make money, but there was also an aspect of penance. I don’t know exactly for what sin I was repenting. Maybe the sin of having gone to graduate school for writing.” Here endeth the soul-searching. By the time the essay’s over, the fledgling has another New Yorker piece to his name.

 

“The hunger for humane, authentic voices trying to get at least a partial grip on the truth” — that’s Lopate’s theory for why personal essays have moved from the corner of the party to the center. Could be, but I think the causes are simpler and more worldly than that. Let’s keep talking about money, since most of TCAE’s contributors don’t. In A.D. 2021, many literary publications pay their contributors nothing at all. Many others pay Depression-era migrant fruit picker wages, plus maybe a free book. Really prestigious outlets offer the same amounts they offered fifty inflation-ravaged years ago. The expense accounts that once flew Hunter S. Thompson to Zaire and Joan Didion to El Salvador have failed to keep up with the consumer price index. The self endures as a subject for the twenty-first-century essayist, partly because of its ability to inspire powerful, moving art, but mostly because it’s cheap. 

Market logic doesn’t explain everything, but it explains a lot — e.g., why a studied ambivalence has become the default tone for the contemporary American essay. Ambivalence at its best is good for lots of things — conveying the moral and epistemological complexity inherent to the human condition, say — but even at its worst it’s a great way of dodging criticism. In the MFA programs where ever-growing numbers of young writers gather to fast-track their careers, dodging criticism is the name of the game (a game for which it’s not uncommon to shell out $100,000, once you factor in room and board). When the writer’s thoughts and feelings have been tastefully hedged, they become much harder to find fault with — particularly when the writer’s subject is the self, about which some iffiness is to be expected. Still it grates, the way so many of the highly intelligent, highly educated, highly observant essayists in TCAE glance at the external world’s ills, shrug, and resume fingering the knot of first-personhood.

Shrugs can be entertaining, of course, but to expect bagel-making or detective fiction to have some point somewhere in five thousand words doesn’t seem all that unreasonable. Sometimes the knowing part is more essential than the not-knowing. And not-knowing can be as tiresome as any takeaway. When ambivalence becomes the rule instead of the exception, the result is a “valid truth,” to borrow Lopate’s tactful phrase, but it’s also a trivial, tautological truth, one which contemporary American essayists have gotten to know a little too well: when you don’t look too hard, you’re unlikely to find much of anything, just pages and pages of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Jackson Arn writes about art and literature.

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