Extrapolating Your Experience

In an interview about his new collection of autobiographical essays, This is Where My Obsession with Infinity Began, Joe Bonomo reflects on how he approaches the form:

When writing essays I’m guided in part by Wallace Stevens’ definition of a metaphor, that an ordinary object slightly turned becomes a metaphor of that object. Though my life and upbringing are pretty ordinary, when I’m following an autobiographical impulse what I hope to do is to turn myself – that is, my experiences, and my reflecting and commenting on them – in such a way as to render myself representative, emblematic of the human condition. Guillermo Díaz-Plaja said that “The essayist, really, is an arbitrary wanderer over a theme that remains hidden,” but one way a theme emerges for the essayist is via attentive, honest and candid self-interrogation. I think that the charge of any essayist is to ask, “Why does my experience matter beyond the fact that it’s my experience,” and “How might it be made to matter to others?”