Meghan Daum's new collection of essays is The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion.
From her Q & A with Cressida Leyshon in The New Yorker:
[Y]our new collection, “The Unspeakable,” ... will be published in November. The pieces range from an account of your mother’s death from gallbladder cancer to your identification with lesbians (while realizing that you remain irredeemably heterosexual) to your deep love for your dog and your experience with a life-threatening illness. When do you know you have the material for an essay? What’s it like to return to those moments in your life?Visit Meghan's official website.
I never sit down to write anything personal unless I know the subject is going to go beyond my own experience and address something larger and more universal. To me, having “material” for an essay means not only having something to write about but also having something interesting and original to say about whatever that might be. I’ve learned over the years that being interested in a particular subject or story does not guarantee you’ll have anything worthwhile to say about it. I can’t tell you how often I’ll sit down to write a column about something that seems incredibly compelling to me, only to realize that I don’t actually have anything new to add and therefore need to find another topic. All of the pieces in the book came out of a process of chewing on the subject matter until I felt confident that I’d be able to work out some kind of unexpected twist or turn in the narrative. I wasn’t going to just write about my mother dying or my dog dying or me getting sick and almost dying. I wanted to offer readers some fresh or provocative interpretations of those events. That’s why those essays aren’t really about death or illness as much as they’re about the scripts we’re told we’re supposed to follow around such circumstances. Ultimately, the book is about not being able to get with the program. It’s about the cognitive and emotional dissonance that arises when we don’t have “appropriate” emotions and reactions—for instance, when we fear that we don’t love our parents enough or we wonder if...[read on]