Thursday, April 27, 2006

Peer Review Letter Article

Dear Lauren,

I must say that I found your essay to be an absolute delight to read. Or, more specifically, I found the opening to be wonderfully engrossing, intensely personal, and entertaining. The second portion, full of facts, quotes, and history, I found a tad dull, dry, and wordy.
Given my understanding of your topic, and you reiteration of it in your title, I can only say that I think that your essay was a wonderful illustration of gender communication, and integration on a personal level. Your personal experience do a wonderful job of illustrating first-hand accounts of strained gender communication with which everyone can identify. I don’t quite know what you’re arguing, however. Are you simply arguing that gender communication is strained?
If that’s the case, then your argument is sound and more than settles your point. Otherwise, I’m having trouble picking up your key concepts. You include what seems to be a major overview of the recent history of feminism, but I can’t quite tell where you’re going with it.
Your credibility on the other hand, is impeccable. The past experiences that you share with your reader are wonderful and so full of vivid imagery and emotions. You evoke the sense of what it was like as a child and how it feels now, with a decade of perspective on the subject. I have to say that it touched me personally, and I found myself reflecting on my own past in regards to your subject after reading your paper. That, I think is fantastic, that you can reach your reader, touch something deep down that we all share—that hidden bit of awkwardness that’s still there all the way back from elementary school.
Your first paragraph is a straightforward plunge into your life, your past, your history, and it’s a shock at first, but it draws in the reader forcefully. You make it very clear that this article is very clearly about you—your experiences, your perspective. The big lead out at the end of that paragraph is, I think, wonderful. It’s so positive, but I was reading it and thinking “Uh, oh—is this where it’s about to go wrong? This is the sort of line at which things always go wrong in the movies.”
But it doesn’t—not immediately anyway. You move on to discuss your elementary school life, with a great overview of your life and accomplishments at that time. I think I wrote some stuff about your choice of words and a sense of hesitation in a few of them, but looking back, I think that “pretty good,” “fairly happy,” and “seemed to increase” work very well with your tone.
There’s a wonderful shift in this tone in your next paragraph—where you talk about your friendship with Daniel. There’s a wonderful, chatty feeling to this paragraph, and it like you’re having a friendly talk with your reader. It’s a great window into what seems a marvelous childhood, but the “pretty, fairly,” adverbs and “seemed” verb from the previous paragraph warn us of what’s to come.
And come it does, for while the next leads in with the wonderful, wonderful nostalgic passage about playing “without a care in the world” we bear witness to a fracture in the fantasy, a break in childhood, and though you state that you, yourself noticed very little at the time, there’s the sense that this is almost a memorial to those carefree days, and an accompanying sense of sorry that the reader can feel quite poignantly.
And here’s where it starts to get heavy, here’s where we feel the perfect world falling about. Your point emerges here in this paragraph—an inexplicable divide between the genders, made literal by the voluntary segregation on the dance floor. You even end with a great, ominous transition sentence, “It had begun . . .”
The obnoxious, screaming siren transition is great! I love it! There’s a cinematic quality at work here, that I think you’re very aware of and using to its fullest. It’s like all the paper prior to this has been a memory, a dream even, and just after the last paragraph begins to fade out, the alarm clock rings, jarring both you and the reader from your reverie. The last sentence on this one gets a great sympathy “awww” from the reader, and reminds the reader of those exact same insecurities at the time.
The mirror is a fantastic way to describe yourself. It fits perfectly in the narrative, but gives you a way to give the reader a visual as well as further your thoughts. It tells us what, exactly you thought of yourself at the time, and gets us into your head. This is wonderfully personal, and really works well.
I love the way that as you walk down the hall, we hear your thoughts—again, it’s that cinematic quality, like in a movie where the main character strolls through the hall, but you hear her thoughts as different things come on screen. I hope it’s not insulting, but I keep thinking of Lindsey Lohan’s character in Mean Girls when she starts her first day at school.
Then we transition again. It’s a departure from the movie-like feel of the earlier part of your paper, but deeper into your head. These sound like your thoughts, your musings, partly a continuation of the prior paragraph, and partly a deep introspection. It’s still wonderful and a nice transition paragraph.
It just doesn’t quite cover the abrupt shift in tone to the rest of your paper. Full of factual evidence, history, and opinion stated as fact, it breaks this wonderful effect, atmosphere and tone that had me enthralled so far. It’s not bad; it’s just a little dry and impersonal after the close, friendly tone of the previous stuff. It’s like . . . all the stuff before was stuff you’d tell a close friend, and the reader feels privileged to be listening, and then it shifts to something you’d be delivering as a speech in a lecture hall. I miss the chatting.
From your notes here, I can see that this second half is still in-progress, but even when you flesh it out, it looks like it may have lost the friendly tone of the first half of the paper. It would be great, I think, if you could intersperse this with more personal experience. You’ve given a lot already, I know, but the shift in gears to pure factoids is really hard to take. If anything, more of the “internal monologue effect would be nice.” Maybe as you observe the world around you, include quotes by Virginia Wolf, or sneak in the statistics that describe what you’re seeing. I just think that your style is too good to loose to a parade of facts.

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