The Author: Dinty W. Moore is an essayist and humorist who has been writing since his university years. The tagline on his website reads: “Author, editor, teacher, specializing in memoir and literary nonfiction. A man who is very much afraid of polar bears.”
The Book: Have you heard of Ask Alice? Or Dear Abby? Newspapers will occasionally have advice columns, which allow readers to send in letters asking questions to be answered by the designated columnist. Often, the question and answer are published in conjunction.
This book follows that same structure, using generally writing-oriented questions, humorous answers, and then essay examples by the author to elaborate on that answer in some way or form. The book is short—it cuts at just over 200 pages—and with a generous use of space for cartoon bears and the letter format.
Example from pages 175-176 (no spoilers):
A Question from Roxane Gay:
“Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy,
Why do so many writers only write about writing? Why do they act like writing is the only thing? What about writing about writing makes writers think they are writing something worth reading? Your Assistance in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Yours, in writing,
Given the subject matter of this book, I feel personally attacked by your question. But that’s okay. I like the attention.
Mister Essay Writer Guy”
For extra note, this is then followed by an essay titled, “Don’t Read This Essay.”
The Recommendation: Have you heard of the phrase “short and sweet?” I think it applies rather well to this book. The page-space is taken up by jokes, with multimodal essays—there is one on napkins, one that uses Google Maps to comment on coincidence, and one that is a collection of Facebook statuses. Dinty W. Moore is one of those individuals who does not hesitate to laugh at himself in his writing, and makes this clear in essays such as the aforementioned Google maps spotlight or another, in which he essentially gets robbed and doesn’t realize it.
Although this book appears to be primarily for the sake of entertainment, it offers students of writing (that’s probably you) things as well. Now that several English classes ask students to provide multimodal assignments as well as traditional essays, this book can serve as a source of inspiration. The nontraditional forms the essays take might inspire you to experiment with your own essays. It can also be very useful to read this for the analysis or development of voice; Moore has a very distinct tone and humor to the style of his essays and letters. If you can pick out what makes it so distinct, you can more easily develop your own voice.
If you would like a short, funny book on writing and on life, this might just be for you!