A Symphony in Essay Form

Here is the title essay from my essay collection, Fever and Guts: A Symphony as it appeared in the wonderful Dos Passos Review.  For the book I broke the essay into its four movements and spaced them throughout the book.  Section I begins the book and IV ends as one would expect in doing this.  I wondered about doing this for a long time.  My initial impulse was to put the essay in as it appears in the Dos Passos Review, but I wanted to create unity in the collection and envisioned that this essay, the last I wrote, as doing this. On the door of Kim Barnes’ office she has a sign that reads: Memory knows no chronology. My life has been chaotic and jumbled and reflecting about the wide ranging essays I tried to make sense of those things and perhaps this essay would give the collection structure and symmetry as readers completed the collection.  A dramatic arc if you will.  When we tell stories we often go forward and backward at will to enhance the narrative, but always keep the thread running throughout it.  Michel de Montaigne the originator of the essay often went on narrative side trips and traveled along the backroads of digression coming back to the theme of his essay when it suited him.  When his contemporaries called him out about not sticking to the point, he simply answered them: “I am myself the matter of my book.”  It seems the essay was meant to wander in whatever direction impulse drove it.  The word essay comes from the French meaning trial or attempt, so plenty of leeway for experiment, after all, it’s just an attempt.  If you’ve read my collection of trials let me know what you think and let me know too what you think about the structure of other collections you’ve read and how they succeeded or failed in your estimation.  What does it mean to have a unified collection of essays? Also perhaps let me know how this individual essay structure affects your reading.  I’m just trying to make some meaning here and figure things out.


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