Last updated on October 31st, 2016Dinty W. Moore’s new book is a droll, delicious exposé of the inner workings of Moore’s mind. Oh, and it’s a writing tutorial as well, although not in the instructional sense — commas here, apostrophes there, watch those dangling participles — but in the classic “show, don’t tell” sense. Moore shows you how to write the most sublime essays in answer to questions posed by contemporary essay writers — questions generated in response to a query from Moore on their thoughts regarding the art of essay writing. As a bonus, he throws in more than a few tidbits of enlightened instruction along the way such as his rumination on the em dash. I, like the questioner Cheryl Strayed (think “Wild”), am enamored of em dashes — so much so that perhaps it has become an unhealthy relationship — but that’s my problem — and I’ll deal with it — someday — maybe. Then there’s Moore’s history lesson.
Did you know that the sixteenth-century French nobleman Michel de Montaigne was the father of the modern essay? (I know. I never heard of him either, but I Googled him and all I can say is that I must have been sleeping during my humanities class.) Also that “Montaigne was a bum, of sorts,” and that he was afraid of something, but I forget now what that was. In addition to those tantalizing tidbits, Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy reminds us of the importance of self-effacing humor in memoir writing. The book exudes waggishness and charm, and will be a wonderful asset to every writer’s library. The essays are insightful, humorous, and instructional, the best kind of tutorial. One of my favs was ”Mr. Plimpton’s Revenge,” which gave me hope for rising above some of my own more serious gaffes; obviously, Moore has flourished despite his, and from reading Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy, they were pretty — well, let’s just say you have to read the book.
“Memory is like rope, knotted every three or four feet, and hanging
down a deep well. When you pull it up, just about anything might be
attached to those knots. But you’ll never know what’s there if you
don’t pull. And the more you pull at that rope, the more you find.”
My friend who taught me how to ski at the very late age of twenty-five always said, “Those who can’t, teach.” I never really understood that line. My friend was and is a wonderful skier, and also a great teacher. Similarly, Moore has spent most of his adult life teaching at various institutions of higher learning around the country and abroad, yet he can write with the best of them.
I’ve been a fan of Moore’s since I read The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, American Style. Moore’s style has evolved to the point gleaming with the spit and polish which years of practicing a craft bestows. If you want a good belly laugh and to learn something about the writing process in the interim then Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy should be on your to-read list.
The above review was originally posted by P.J. Lazos on her blog at Green Life Blue Water.