Jamison wants us to pay attention to both heart and head, to feeling (in all its messiness and pain) and truth-telling (in all its qualifiers and inadequacy).
Not every essay in the book is as ambitious, nor are they all equally successful.
In the ad copy for a microscope raffled off at the conference, Jamison provides a decent working definition of her own writing style: “examined close-up, our most ordinary parts — even the surface and abrasions of our skin — become wild and terrifying.”There’s something old-fashioned about the idea of an essay — a form we remember writing for school assignments or required reading from musty library books.
But it’s been clear for a while now that we’re in a new golden age of the essay — informed by memoir, long-form journalism, even the epigrammatic style of social media — and in “The Empathy Exams” Leslie Jamison has announced herself as its rising star.
” Indeed, Jamison’s essays document suffering in many forms—murders, muggings, incarcerations and adventure races—but her through line remains constant: a clear-eyed, eloquent examination of what it means to be both human and humane.