“A Chapter on Ears” by Charles Lamb

There were three particular things that I enjoyed about this essay: the emotional climax, the use of alliteration, and a single list of examples. Overall the essay was entertaining in tone. He begins with childish mood that I think he maintains throughout the piece. But towards the end there is an emotional climax where he builds the reader up into a frenzy at the music. Before this he is ruminating on what bothers him about music, and before that he meditates on why he doesn’t understand music and doesn’t have an ear for it, but by the end he is worked up in a cold sweat over his friend’s organ playing and says that he is at his wit’s end. I am realizing that there is more than just a narrative climax. There are epiphanies, and emotional climaxes, and, well, I actually haven’t given this much thought, other than sensing that there are emotional climaxes just as much as there are plot climaxes. I think I will spend some free time thinking about what other kinds of climaxes can be reached in writing and essays. Now, I did also enjoy his use of alliteration, not because I am partial to it, but because he used it with wit. I caught onto the fact that he was saying that he had no ear for music, but all the while he is using his ear for the music in writing. There’s a whole paragraph that he doesn’t this intentionally—“candid current of my confessions,” “more than midsummer madness,” “unset sounds,” “measured malice of music,” “passive to those single strokes,” etc. I was delighted that while he was explaining his lack of ability to hear music he is creating it. It was as if someone were singing about how they could not sing. And yet it wasn’t so obvious, which made it all the more enjoyable to discover. And lastly, I did realize as I read one of his lists that there was no possible way this man was just writing this all out as it flowed out of his pen. Sometimes, most of the times actually, I am under the impression that these writers have all this come to them at one moment and that they do write a second draft, but it really only involves changing some grammar perhaps, as well as a few punctuation edits. And that’s it, they are just geniuses that can sit down and expound in such language and clarity and creativity, even effortlessly. Now, I saw that list about adding sugar to honey and looking at empty books and pictures, and I knew that he didn’t write that in one sitting. Rather, I saw the massaging, the contemplation, the time that he spent with just that list alone. And I’m grateful he did, because that list made me laugh and it pleased me with its aesthetics.