Virtual Love Essay Summary Outline

The New Yorker, August 25, 1997 P. 80

BRAVE NEW WORLD DEPT. about the writer's love affair with someone she met last November over her computer modem... One morning, I logged on to my America Online account to find a message under the heading "is this the real meghan daum?" It came from someone with the screen name PFSlider. The body of the message consisted of five sentences, written entirely in lower-case letters, of perfectly turned flattery: something about PFSlider's admiration of some newspaper and magazine articles I had published over the last year and a half... He sent another letter the next day. He confessed to having a crush on me. He referred to me as "princess daum." He said he wanted to have lunch with me during one of his two annual trips to New York. The letter was outrageous and endearingly pathetic, possibly the practical joke of a friend trying to rouse me out of a temporary writer's block. PFSlider and I tossed a few innocuous, smart-assed notes back and forth over the week following his first message. Let's say his name was Pete. He was twenty-nine and single. ...Pete--I could never wrap my mind around his name, privately thinking of him as PFSlider, "E-mail guy," or even "baseball boy"--began phoning me two or three times a week. He asked if he could meet me, and I said that that would be O.K. Christmas was a few weeks away, and he told me that he would be coming back East to see his family. From there, he would take a short flight to New York and have lunch with me. For me, the time on-line with Pete was far superior to the phone. There were no background noises, no interruptions from "call waiting," no long-distance charges. Through types and misspellings, he flirted maniacally." Since my last serious relationship, I'd had the requisite number of false starts and five-night stands, dates that I wasn't sure were dates, and emphatically casual affairs that buckled under their own inertia. With PFSlider, on the other hand, I may not have known my suitor, but, for the first time in my life, I knew the deal: I was a desired person, the object of a blind man's gaze. The day of our date...was frigid and sunny. Pete was sitting at the bar of the restaurant when I arrived. We shook hands... Later, we went to the Museum of Natural History and watched a science film about storm chasers. We walked around looking for dinosaurs, and he talked so much that I wanted to cry. Outside... he grabbed my hand to kiss me and I didn't let him. I felt as if my brain had been stuffed with cotton... I was horrified by the realization that I had invested so heavily in a made-up character--a character in whose creation I'd had a greater hand that even Pete himself... He sent flowers. Writer visited him in Los Angeles... Describes their numb interactions... Mostly, it was the courtship ritual that had seduced us. ..Tells how he got a job in New York, but fell away from her... Even if we met on the street, we wouldn't recognize each other, our particular version of intimacy now obscured by the branches and bodies and falling debris that make up the physical world.

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1. Your summary should start with the author’s name and the title of the work. Here are several ways to do this correctly:

  • In "Cats Don't Dance," John Wood explains...
  • John Wood, in "Cats Don't Dance," explains...
  • According to John Wood in "Cats Don't Dance"...
  • As John Wood vividly elucidates in his ironic story "Cats Don't Dance"...
  • John Wood claims in his ironic story "Cats Don't Dance" that...

2. Look for the thesis sentence or write out a thesis sentence that summarizes the main idea. Underline a topic sentence for each paragraph or write a sentence in the margins or on notebook paper for each paragraph. Combine that thesis with the title and author into your first sentence of the summary.

Example first sentence: In "Cats Don't Dance," John Wood explains that in spite of the fact that cats are popular pets who seem to like us, felines are not really good at any activities that require cooperation with someone else, whether that is dancing or sharing.

3. The rest of your summary should tell some of the central concepts that are used to support the thesis. Be sure to restate these ideas in your own words. Make your summary as short and concise as possible. Condense sentences and leave out unimportant details and examples. Stick to the important points.

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