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This piece feels much more intimate, more like one of your short stories. I would in fact call this piece memoir as opposed to a personal essay.
If someone told me a story about a cat, it wouldn’t occur to me to have an opinion on what happened. Then I started calling shelters, and finding out there are these services, very expensive ones that help find lost animals. For example, there’s my sister, a sensible, fairly traditional person, very intelligent but fairly conventional in how she sees reality.
I was telling her about what happened, but instead of talking common sense to me, she began to tell me about her mother-in-law who played a card game with these women who cursed her.
I read somewhere that you draft your work in longhand? Is there anything else you wanted to say about writing “Lost Cat”?
I wondered sometimes if it was in a way immoral to talk about my family. So in a way he’s not in a position to care, and I doubt if he’s aware of it.
I express myself much more plainly or directly with nonfiction. I couldn’t have written “Lost Cat” two months after the cat had gone missing.
With fiction, I am largely speaking the language of metaphor, which people frequently mistake for literal communication. I start writing in longhand usually and then at some point, I start writing on the computer. Detachment allows you to see more of what’s there and feel more of it, rather than be completely overcome by one particular emotion.
While I love animals, especially cats, I am not a nut about it in general. At first I said, “I don’t know if I have anything to say on that subject.” But at the time, I was working on the longer piece.
Both my degree of attachment and the depth of it for Gattino were unusually strong. I found your was that an editor contacted me on some issue they were doing focused on “How To Love Better,” or something like that. I told the editor, “I don’t know if it’s going to work, but I’ll write this thing, and you can use it or not.” They found it useful.
As I said in the essay, I was sad about the cat all in itself.
But a smaller loss, an attachment to an animal, affects you in an unguarded place.