Tony Earley Essay

This essay has a total of 1152 words and 5 pages.

Tony Earley

Memory and Imagination within Human Experience
Tony Earley delves into his own memories in his book, Somehow Form a Family. In the
introduction, he instructs the reader on the purpose of narrative form, defines a personal
essay, and reveals the true nature of creative nonfiction. In the ten essays that follow,
he provides sketches of the events and people who shaped his life. Earley focuses on a
different bit of common ground in each story, giving his readers everything they need to
know within a relatively short span of pages.

The uses of discernable facts, such as actual places, names, past events and past
conversations, add elements of authenticity to Earley's writings. From the Blue Ridge
Mountains to the name Bill Ledbetter, to the numerous shows he watched throughout his
adolescence, Earley presents these facts to the reader in order to tether the woven script
to a tangible source. He repeats these facts over and over within each story, reflecting
again and again on personal memories. Memory and imagination, Earley states, "seem to me
the same human property, known by different names." Earley makes this important point as
he reflects on the individual's ability to perceive an event uniquely due to imagination.

Miracles are not uncommon within Earley's vivid memories. The imagination prevalent within
his work reflects his own willingness to accept the supernatural into his reality. Earley
relishes in his memories, now infused with the essence of his own imagination:

The first time I attended the Episcopal Church in my hometown with a
girlfriend, I was shocked by the complexity of the melodies the organist
played, by the sheer, tuneful competence of the singing. Until then I don't
think I knew it was possible to worship God in cadences and keys actually
indicated in a hymnal.

In the years since I left, Rock springs has added air-conditioning and a
sound system and a fellowship hall, but has changed little in one important way:
the congregation still sings out of green, dog-eared copies of the 1940
Broadman Hymnal. Though I heard the songs in the Broadman sung well only once a
year, on Homecoming, the third Sunday in May, when the church overflowed
with visitors and our musical shortcoming were hidden inside a joyful
noise, they have always been the songs I love best. I would be hard-pressed
to recall even a single sentence from the hundreds of sermons I heard growing up
at Rock Springs, but I can sing from memory at least one verse from each of
the hymns we sang from the Broadman. (114)


His consistent use of facts, such as the upgrades given to the church in Rock Springs and
the Broadman Hymnal, allows his deeply personal essay to relate to his readers. Earley
attempts to connect his experience with that of the readers through these factual
references. As the readers are able to relate to the factual memories presented here, the
Continues for 3 more pages >>