Below is the homework assignment. Here's a link to Susan Orlean commenting on "American Man" and discussing the choices she made.
Lead / First paragraph assignment Read the first graph of each of the stories in The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup. (This doesn't include "Short People," which isn't one story but a large group of very short profiles.) In a comment, respond to one of the following (~200 words):
a) What do all of these (or most of them) have in common? What are the markers of an "Orlean lead?"
You can go with the literal if you want, but you might have to think holistically. What I mean is, she
might not use first person in the first sentence of each piece, but there might be a metaphorical
first-person idea there. Please be specific, referring to a few lines in a few stories for examples.
b) If you've already started thinking about the lead to the profile you're writing, how are these leads
instructive to you as models? What is Orlean doing that you hope to do with yours? What is a
tendency of hers that you hope to avoid? The point of much of the reading in our class, as opposed
to reading a novel or play in a 'regular' English class, is to focus on style in order, ultimately, to
develop your own. How might Orlean's leads influence yours?
c) What lingering big questions do you have about profiles? Pose a few, and then explore how Orlean
either clarifies or complicates the issue for you.
You are also welcome to respond to what some of your classmates have already written. As always, with any option you choose, please be specific and thorough.