This article by Sam Anderson is an exercise in vivid descriptions. His opening line is evocative: “People often compare the summer heat of Louisiana to being locked in a sauna for three months.” With just a few words, Anderson has set a tone for the rest of the work.
I think this piece is important for people wanting to write personal narratives or long-form stories. There has to be such an absolute commitment to the subject, to find stories and moments that will capture a reader.
Additionally, this work is a piece of differentiation. What makes tubing in Louisiana a quasi-religious experience that simply cannot be replicated by the rest of the country is deftly explored by Anderson: “In Oregon or Nebraska, tubing is just an incidentally wet version of a stroll in the woods, the spiritual equivalent of a hundred other outdoor leisure activities. In the South, it represents one of the only possible escapes from a greenhouse climate threatening to replace human life with ferns. Southerners are forced to tube.”
With these points in mind, here are some discussion starters and questions.
- Find your favorite line of description in the work. Why does it speak to you?
- Were there any moments were you thought a detail was extraneous? Were there moments where the detail at first seemed unnecessary, but you appreciated as you read further?
- When were you first hooked on the story? Did it not hook you? Why or why not?
- Do you have an activity that inspires the same feeling in you that tubing does it Anderson? Take a moment to write it down.