Personal essay or short story: “Mr. Sears”

by look i have opinions

“Mr. Sears,” by Emily Fox Gordon

Appeared in Ploughshares Summer 2016: Vol. 42, No. 2

Maybe 4,000 words?

I can’t tell from Ploughshares‘ presentation of this piece whether it’s supposed to be memoir or fiction (edited to add that on the website, it’s clearly listed as nonfiction). But as guest editors Claire Messud and James Wood say in this issue’s introduction: “We like the idea that form cannot be imposed, but is fluid and natural, improvised and up for grabs; that hiding inside each genre is the ghost of another form—the essay always about to become a fiction, the novella dreaming of being even briefer than it already is, the short story espying its larger cousin on the horizon.”

Writing about one’s adolescence from the distance of adulthood seems different from writing about one’s childhood. Less immersive. Or at least this particular story is less immersive—possibly because the narrator is focused on reconstructing the life of an adult.