The Agenda

Jeffrey Goldberg, Allison Benedikt, and the Perils of the Personal Essay

Jeffrey Goldberg has been engaged in a back-and-forth with Allison Benedikt, an editor at the Village Voice who recently wrote a short personal essay on her disillusionment with the summer camp Zionism of her youth. I recommend reading the exchange. I find Goldberg’s take on the essay measured, intelligent, and convincing.  

My only other observation is that when we write about our own lives in a public setting, we invite others to interrogate our motives and to put our self-chosen narratives in a broader context. Writing for others is an attention-seeking exercise, with the possible exception of unbylined work, technical writing, and perhaps certain strains of just-the-facts reporting. I’ve always thought of writing for the public, or the semi-public, as a way to send out a beacon into the universe and to see what comes back your way. It is not always pleasant. 

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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