Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays
Leslie Jamison, author of essay collection The Empathy Exams, wields the essay form successfully once again in Make It Scream, Make It Burn. In this newer collection, Jamison’s attention turns toward themes of longing, looking, and dwelling, and the subjects of her essays are varied, from users of the virtual world Second Life to Jamison’s own relationships and her grappling with step-motherhood. Jamison’s attention to the details of everyday life and the depths of human emotion drive each essay forward and thread the collection’s fourteen essays into a cohesive whole.
Jamison’s mastery is clear throughout the collection; her essays and sentences have a structure and a rhythm, and she never misses a beat. This is a strength of the collection to be sure, but at times it also verges on becoming a weakness. Well-chosen transition sentences sometimes feel so calculated as to be inorganic, and emotional observations ring less true when the words feel more carefully premeditated than naturally expressed. The more autobiographical later essays escape this problem to a greater extent than do the earlier essays. Jamison also sometimes falls short of truly digging deeper into some of the collection’s ideas, like the limits of human understanding and the relationship between White artists and the non-White subjects of their art. The essays in Make It Scream, Make It Burn are thoughtful and well crafted, but at times they left me wishing for something messier and more complex.
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