Response to ‘The Night’ by Campana, The Lost Origins of the Essay

The Lost Origins of the Essay
This essay is broken up into numerous disjointed paragraphs that are more like a collection of prose poems than anything else. One thing that I noticed right away is Campana’s use of setting and colons. Each paragraph discusses setting, making the entire essay appear almost obsessed with it. Even the characters (the narrator and others) are somehow part the setting, as if they are mere placeholders within the setting.

Another major thing that stands out about this essay is the author’s use of colons. I’m undecided whether it is the colons or the author’s approach to sentences that give many of the sentences within the essay an uncomfortable feel. For example, “at the edge of the countryside a door cut in the stone, watched by a young woman in a red dress, pale and fat, caught its eye: I entered.” There is a definite lack of action verbs and I’m sure that this is a conscious decision on the part of the author. However, I’m not sure if that works. Furthermore, there are many other sentences which are much more complex, mostly as a result of the use of more than one colon within the same sentence.

I have never seen more than one colon used per sentence before and, though it makes for an interesting style, I’m not entirely sold on it. It seems to me the literary devices such as these should be used sparingly so that they did not standout too much and take away from the actual writing. This essay’s style makes me consider my own essay and my decision to use footnotes. I’m trying very carefully to use footnotes in such a way that they actually add to the writing and the content of the story rather than standout as a novelty act (even though footnotes in fiction are no longer that novel). Perhaps footnotes and colons and other devices in writing should be treated like decorations in a house. While a few oddball pieces may add just the right amount of eccentricity to enhance the house’s beauty with a touch of authenticity, a large amount of oddball decorations can hide the house’s beauty and make it look like a bad garage sale/crappy thrift store.

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