Monday, May 16, 2011

Hell is a Slush Pile

Every week Owl receives a parcel of essays. As part of her slush reader duties she’s supposed to read them, and write a short synopsis and evaluation, as well as determine if they should be rejected or forwarded to the board. (This is actually less power than it sounds, according to the magazine rules Owl is supposed to forward everything written in coherent sentences.)

When it comes, Owl gets a happy glowing feeling. Like, someone’s just handed her a treasure chest and keys and said—Go on now. Have a look. Like she’s going to plunge in face first and resurface with sentences that shine like ropes of brilliant gemstones, paragraphs that contain pearls of wisdom, like when she’s done reading, she’ll be looking at a richer and brighter world.

And then Owl reads her slush.

Most weeks the pieces are solidly constructed but a little off, the ending is a whimper instead of a bang, the essay is too interior to the writer to be understood by a stranger, attempts to describe raw emotion are well, boiled. Boiled potatoes. Without salt.

Those pieces make Owl a little sad. They are gallant attempts that well, weren’t quite good enough.

But sometimes, sometimes it’s—oh hell, see for yourself. Here are Owl’s evaluations from this week’s round of essays.

(Note: Actual evaluations were somewhat more civilized. These are the uncensored versions.)

Essay 1

Synopsis: Young girl goes to the beach.

Evaluation: This is a four paged essay. The second page is a wall of text listing all the songs she listens to at the beach. While the descriptions of the ocean are gorgeous, and supplemented by photographs the author thoughtfully included, there is nothing different or unique about this beach trip. She and her brother are at the beach. They ate ice cream and listened to a lot of music. At the very least, the essay needs to include a jellyfish attack, but preferably a nasty shark encounter, to justify its existence,

Essay 2

Synopsis: The narrator describes all of her teachers K-12 in a series of thirteen anecdotes.

Evaluation: The anecdotes are engaging but heavy of the fart jokes. (I think fart jokes are funny and even this was too much for me.) There was no cohesive thread that connected the anecdotes to each other, and while that may not be strictly necessary, it would have given the essay a broader appeal. As it is, it's a humorous read, but narrow in scope—hardly of interest to anyone who doesn’t know the writer personally. Also the end is marred by a multiple choice quiz asking the reader what the point of the essay is. Author listed eight possibilities but forgot to include (I) there is no point.

Essay 3

Synopsis: Woman explains her connection to her dead husband while going through her Tupperware collection.

Evaluation: The prose is here is beautiful and fluid, the images are very vivid, very clear. I will never look at Tupperware the same way again. However, there are five pages of Tupperware descriptions and one paragraph devoted to her husband’s death. Then she goes right back to describing Tupperware. Telling the truth slant is good, but there's such a thing as telling it too slant.

Essay 4

Synopsis: Woman discusses how hearing children cry "Mama" in Spanish during her spring break trip  lead to a life long love affair with Latin American culture and people. Literally. She spends the next twenty years trying to get impregnated by Latin men. Her goal in life is to have children who call her "Mama" with Spanish accents.

Evaluation: The style was simple which was good, because I had no sense of where the piece is going and why. The structure is as haphazard as the narrator’s approach to finding a partner. While her tangents are interesting they do not contribute to the overall development of the narrative. Five pages are spent describing a conversation with a priest, one paragraph is spent mourning her dead boyfriend, and one sentence at the end explains that yes, she eventually did marry and get herself Spanish speaking babies.

Essay 5

Synopsis: Two, um, beings eat delicious Mexican mole stew together.

Evaluation: Commendable effort at attempting to use language creatively in order to capture sensation. Unfortunately the result was so confused, after three reads, I still don't know if the narrator is a human or a cricket. Where are the characters? What are they are doing besides eating? Why does it matter? All mysteries the author does not bother to answer. As a side note, eating a sublime mole stew should never be compared to being infected by "a delicious hairworm." This is a direct quote.

After finishing her slush Owl took her red pen and stabbed herself repeatedly in the chest in an attempt to commit hara-kiri.

She should have listened to her mother and majored in economics.

To be or not to be?


  1. I can submit essays! I can submit essays! I can pretend to be female, if necessary!

  2. Telling the truth slant is good, but there's such a thing as telling it too slant.

    Hahaha--I'll say! Wow, all of those seem pretty overly slanted.

  3. O_o That was entertaining to read about, but I'm sure it led to you banging your head against the desk in reality.

  4. steady, owl. back away ...slowly....

  5. @PR
    Do it! But no need to pretend to get female. Being male may actually give you a slight advantage--about 75% of what I get is by females.

    ...still...have...not recovered.

    only if i can go on a mad rampage

  6. I've nominated you and your lovely blog for the Versatile Blogger Award. You can drop by at and pick up the award. Best wishes

  7. "As a side note, eating a sublime mole stew should never be compared to being infected by "a delicious hairworm." This is a direct quote."

    Just found your blog today and the only word that comes to mind after reading your posts is: Sublime!!

    On a different note re this particular post, I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life!!! Surely a major in economics wouldn't offer the same level of entertainment for both yourself and well, us...! Though that probably doesn't help much...

    Can't wait to read the next post!

  8. @CHE

    Awww thanks. I'm super touched!


    Thank you. :) I've been on a bit of a brain freeze lately but now I'm super motivated to update.