Keep Up with Essay and Memoir One Paragraph at a Time

A New Feature Every Friday*

January 24, 2020


from “On Going (Back)”
in Brevity
by Jill Talbot


We're excited about this week's commentary which is a first for The Humble Essayist: a video essay based on this week’s paragraph by Jill Talbot.THE


Jill Talbot is the author of The Way We Weren’t: A Memoir and Loaded: Women and Addiction. She’s also the editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her essays have appeared in AGNI, Colorado Review, Diagram, Ecotone, Hotel Amerika, Longreads, The Normal School, and The Paris Review Daily, among others. She is the nonfiction editor at American Literary Review and teaches creative writing at The University of North Texas.

The Paragraph of the Week is from her essay “On Going (Back)” published in Brevity. Read Talbot's paragraph and click on the photo to see the video.

When you finish, you can read Talbot's full essay here.

The Paragraph of the Week

I have a history of going, of going back, of thinking go away, go away, go away. Right now I’m sitting in the booth of a faded bar along a highway on my way back to Texas. I’m staring out a dusty window (wobbly table, sweaty bottle). Greyhound bus, UPS double-trailer, white construction truck, car, car, blue pick-up, SUV, cement truck, semi, semi, semi.


On the other side of the highway, trees bend in the spring wind.

—Jill Talbot

Video Essay Commentary

(Click on Image)


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Solstice Publishes  “The Arc of the Moral Universe”

by Steven Harvey

I am excited that Solstice magazine published my essay “The Arc of the Moral Universe” as the editor's pick in nonfiction for the fall 2019 issue. “Is justice a ‘river of God that is full of blessing' or a bright-eyed goddess ‘lying prostrate on the streets’? Is morality hidden in the inner workings of a universe whose laws are beyond our understanding or power to change?  Or, does that impute an agency to history that doesn’t exist?” These are the questions I explore in the piece. You can read it here.

You can learn more about the recent work of Steven Harvey at his author's page here.

THE Mission

We at The Humble Essayist are in love with the paragraph, that lowliest of literary techniques.  A sentence stands out as a noble thing: a complete thought.  But what is a paragraph?  And what, in particular, is a good one?  You know it when you read it--that is our article of faith.  So on Friday of each week, beginning on Independence Day 2014, the very day 169 years ago that Henry Thoreau moved to Walden Pond, we will select a single paragraph from an essay or a reflective memoir and print it here along with a paragraph of commentary.   We will choose paragraphs that are surprising, beautifully written, and, above all, thematic--illuminating the author's comment on life.  Each paragraph of the week is, in short, a concise review of the writer's work.  We hope that this page will introduce you to many exciting authors and their ideas.


The Humble Essayist thanks Clipartpal for the public domain artwork that is the logo for the site.

The Definite Article

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