There are simply so many good things to say about Lee Reilly's essay "The Relative Nature of Things" that the only thing I can think to do is to list them:
- It holds the double distinction of being a finalist in last year's mucho prestigioso Fourth Genre Michael Steinberg Essay Contest, and subsequently being published online in Hunger Mountain. (I had nothing to do with that, though I wish I did.)
- It's a list essay! Did I mention my well-documented love of the list essay?
- Anyone who's had the pleasure/torture of sorting through their parents' old stuff can relate to the subject matter.
- It reminds me of Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough's "Objects of Affection," one of my favorite essays from last year's Best American Essays (originally published in Ploughshares). Both explore the relationship between family, objects and memory, exemplified in this passage from "The Relative Nature of Things":
"Okay, I realize this argument is about more than things. It's how we perceive those things and value them. And even more than that: it's the meaning that is created as we three construct our own collections, as we choose the props of our own evolving narratives, as we toil, conscious curators of our own stories. For we've reached a turning point, an inescapable moment when this living archive that our parents kept intact for 60 years - these photos, scribbled drafts of sent letters, cookbooks, yearbooks, matchbooks, from places we've never been - will disappear, just as our parents have."
- As a writer, Reilly has a style that makes me feel while reading it like I'm eating the darkest, richest chocolate truffle while sipping 30-year port. Timeless.