Disappointment is a fine literary theme—”universal”—as the young high school English teacher, himself disappointed, was fond to say, and it wears like leather. Disappointment continued to be mined in California’s literature throughout the 20th century. Joan Didion gave us domestic broken-dreamers, not so much driven as driving. In the great Didion essays of the sixties, the dystopian mother abandons her daughter on the median of the San Bernardino freeway; dirty dishes pile up in the sink; the hot wind blows from the desert.

I'm still struggling with Richard Rodriguez's essay.

  • Is "not reading the essay" an option? There are lots of newer, less oddly written, more interesting essays to read. Have you been set this as an assignment by your teacher. It might be worth discussing it with your teacher. What is the purpose of reading this essay?
    – James K
    Feb 18, 2022 at 13:34
  • 1
    @JamesK - the teacher might usefully suggest acquiring or developing some research skills. Typing exactly this: "wears like leather" meaning into Google brought up a page of links to discussions of how fake leather cracks and does not age well, whereas real leather ages gracefully and looks better as time goes by. You didn't even have to click the links as the visible summaries told the story. Perhaps the essay, which I have come to like, is a kind of litmus test? Maybe it's about thinking about what you're reading? Feb 18, 2022 at 13:39
  • Well, I must translate this essay and translate very accurately. So, I don't quite understand, why my questions are not welcome here. I don't have a teacher, who will guide me. I think a bad translation is much worse than a student, who's trying to understand all meanings with help of native speakers. And yes, dictionaries and googling are not always helpful.
    – Rocky
    Feb 18, 2022 at 17:37
  • Do you mean that you're being paid to translate this essay for someone? That's fair enough. Please remember we don't know why you want to understand this essay. It is a fair question to ask "What is your purpose in reading this essay?"
    – James K
    Feb 18, 2022 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


To wear (or wear out) means to become thin or damaged by use. But leather is known for being very tough. Leather wears very slowly. So if something "wears like leather" this simile means that it is tough, it lasts a long time.

Disappointment is a theme in writing which has been used by Californian writers for a long time. It doesn't wear out.

  • It does not, in a literary sense, become outworn. Feb 18, 2022 at 15:40

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