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Video Essays Appearing in The Humble Essayist



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

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March 20, 2020

from “Skyglow”

in Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children

by Kathryn Winograd

“In the darkest of skies, theoretical or not, Mother, here are the words for light I can give you.”

—Kathryn Winograd


We are celebrating a new book of braided, lyrical essays written by poet and essayist, Kathryn Winograd, published this week by Saddle Road Press. Called Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children, the book about change and loss weaves many threads: the fragile beauty of the Colorado Rockies, the migration of animals, unearthed fossils, gravitational waves, the arrow of time, dying animals, and a warming planet to name a few. One thread includes her aging mother who suffers from macular degeneration and hopes to die before she goes completely blind. In the essay “Skyglow” Winograd offers her mother a gift: the possibility of a luminosity that outlasts our lives.

Our commentary is a THE video essay. You can see more THE videos in our new video archive here.


One note: In her essay Winograd tells us that scientists call the darkest part of the night sky “theoretical,” a term included in the Paragraph of the Week. You can learn more about Kathryn Winograd, her work, and her new book at her website.

The Paragraph of the Week

In the darkest of skies, theoretical or not, Mother, here are the words for light I can give you: effulgence, meaning a shining forth. Or incandescence: the emission of visible light by a body. Or, finally, luminescence—all that gold light we can see, like a husband's or a father's or now a mother's, which does not need the body's heat to warm us.

—Kathryn Winograd

July 3, 2020

from “If the Injustice Is”

in “Civil Disobedience”

by Henry David Thoreau

“Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”—Henry David Thoreau



We begin year six—as we have each year since The Humble Essayist began in 2014—with the writer who started it all for us, Henry David Thoreau. On Independence Day in 1845 he moved to Walden Pond to live deliberately and work on his book Walden. In honor of his masterpiece we created our website on July 4, 169 years later.


On this sad Fourth of July week, as Americans suffer a pandemic, struggle with economic collapse, and are stirred to confront racial injustice, Thoreau seems to be particularly relevant. His personal manifesto, “Civil Disobedience,” has probably done more to change the world for the better than any other single essay, inspiring many leaders including Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.


In our current grappling with racial injustice it is important to remember that the essay was written because Thoreau “could not for an instant recognize as my government [that] which is the slave's government also."


In the Paragraph of the Week, Thoreau makes a succinct argument for when civil disobedience is justified. For our commentary we have transformed his paragraph into a video essay called “If the Injustice Is.” Please read the paragraph, watch the video, and spread the word. You can read Thoreau’s complete essay here.

The Paragraph of the Week


If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth,—certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.

—Henry David Thoreau

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