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Day 5: Sacred Reading - Collecting Model Writing

Harvey, G. (2015, June 10). Jenny Diskiʻs end notes. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from

What is sacred:
This article by Giles Harvey is an obit essay of the author Jenny Diski through the time he spent with her at the end. I was pointed toward this article through my Austin Kleon weekly newletter and I find that he has very good taste in finding "end of life essays" that are able to connect me to some thought or emotion that drifts around unexamined. This does not go into sentimentality, but takes its time to honor the gallows humor of her wit and the power of her prose. 

Although she is already dead and I have not heard of her before, I am left hungry to look up her essays and books. One sample Mr. Harvey includes of her writing is from "Stranger on a Train" (2002) where Disky rides the rails around America, dialogues with other passengers and just stares out the window. Through this experience, she showcases her ability to "catch thought as it flies, and here, as so often in her work, a description of a landscape doubles as a description of the mind going about its odd, fidgety business":  

What is remarkable, what is strange about passing through America, peering at it through the screen of the train window, is that everything is familiar. It is much more as if America is passing through you. ... Sitting there looking out at the landscape is like having a dye injected so that the tendrils of memory in the brain light up and trace the private history of your mind. As I sit and watch the weird rock formations, sage brush, cactus, and Joshua trees of the desert land go by, the cinema in Tottenham Court Road where I saw my first shootouts jumps vividly into my present. The smell and plush of the carpet underfoot comes flooding back to me, the tense anticipation as the lights begin to fade, the solid dark presence of my father sitting beside me, the blue smoke from his cigarette curling up into the bright beam on its way to the screen.
Connections to current/future work:

Her style of writing, a rambling story telling, a thesis told within and outside of a story, sort of like Moby Dick only doing it well, is what I want to strive for in my academic voice. To be both story teller and researcher in equal measure, not necessarily story as introduction or metaphor to research, but woven together, going back and forth like the rhythm of the train.

This is just a hunch based on her little excerpt, but the power of reading the article was in the power of reading the messages or comments which is where someone posted a link to the London Review of Books where they have archived and opened up some of her essays, including "In Gratitude" which is her essay from her cancer journal.


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