I suppose I’ll be documenting my adventure (can I even call it that?) reading The Art of the Personal Essay. I probably will not talk about how the literature is using metaphors and other literary devices which contribute to the overall feeling and succinctness of the essays. There’s enough college professors, teachers and the ilk doing that. I’m just going to talk about what I like. You’re probably thinking that that’s so unique. I’ll tell you that you’re right. It’s probably not that uncommon for a high school student to be voicing their opinions of personal essays. Well, if you’re still reading, you might as well finish reading.
I chose to read “This Too Is Life” by Lu Hsun (Lu Xun) after reading “In Praise of Shadows”. I don’t know why I chose to read it. The title? According to the head note, Lu Hsun is “considered by many to be the greatest modern Chinese writer”. Apparently, his essays (which followed after the head note) were “rooted in classical Chinese technique, but adapted to modern times. With a nonchalance bordering on formlessness, the author records his thoughts, seemingly not caring whether they lead to something edifying or grotesque as long as they capture the flow of mental life (The Art of the Personal Essay).”This made a little more sense than the head note for “In Praise of Shadows”, but I was at loss for what “flow of mental life meant” and “classical Chinese technique”. What is “formlessness”? The first thing that came to mind was an amoeba, which had nothing to do with the “formlessness” that Phillip Lopate was talking about.
Joking put aside, it took me a few reading to figure out what Lu Hsun was writing about. The essay was written as if Lu Hsun wrote his thoughts down and edited it, and viola! It was not until the fourth time that I read it that I realized the central idea of the essay. I was looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. The essay is about looking at things as a whole, not looking at part something. The meaning was right there in front of me, yet I had missed it. Yes, in the end, I did see how it was like ancient Chinese literature. Nothing is straightforward, but if it was, it wouldn’t be a pleasure to read.
Here ends my thoughts on “This Too Is Life”. Maybe I had understood the meaning of the essay, but I still can’t figure out what the title refers to. I’ll need some extra thinking on that one…