My former notion of essay compliations was that they were dislocated fragments of life attempting to complement one another while also viciously competing with each other. Lawrence Lenhart’s The Well-Stocked and Gilded Cage doesn’t just challenge my old preconception, it demolishes it. His stories are reflections of himself and human experiences, executed so well that I feared they were destined to happen to me. He writes with such brilliance and well-developed research that I often found myself wondering in what genre I would categorize him, but it is impossible to rest on just one. The essay about a dog breaks your heart but also fuels your rebellious desire to deconstruct childhood traumas. The essays about love and family are twisted to expose the desperation and distance associated with coming home. Without giving too much away, I can say with a supreme form of vagueness that Lenhart writes similarly to how the inner conscious of us all thinks: unfiltered, honestly, and filled with embarrassing moments you always try to suppress.
There is humiliation, lust, humility, and brilliance encompassed in each essay, and to attempt to define them as wholly separate would be unfair. Lenhart's voice is arguably what connects his work initially, but our ability to decipher their messages as a way of looking at the smaller moments in life as universal symbols of unity and relation are what keep them linked. You will laugh, and you will feel uncomfortable. You will cringe, and you will feel nostalgic. But really, aren’t these contradictions what writing is meant to invoke?
In a technical sense, I can say with certainty that the essays are such a fast and enjoyable read. If you want to explore nonfiction in a way that isn’t devastatingly complex, then please read the raw and honest words of Lawrence Lenhart. You will feel like a better person for it.