Essayism

Essayism Review

The essay is a venerable form that may well be the genre of the future. It has its origins in a mode of self-examination and even self-obsession - 'it is many years now that I have had only myself as object of my thoughts', writes Montaigne in his essay 'Of Practice' - but it is just as accurately defined by its vagrant and curious scope, its capacity to suborn any and every object to its elegant remit. It may not in fact be 'well made' at all, but a thing of fragments and unfinished apercus, or an omnium-gatherum like Robert Burton's capacious but recognizably essayistic Anatomy of Melancholy. The essay may not even be written, but instead a photo essay, film essay, radio essay or some hybrid of these and the literary archetype. It may belong to a self-conscious genre and have been written by an essayist who self-declares as such; or it might be conjured from a milieu where the labels 'essay' and 'essayist' would make no sense at all. The essay, in short, is a varied and various artefact. Its occasion might be scholarly - there are academic essays, though they tend to be essays to the extent that they wish to stop being academic - or it may be journalistic, institutional or 'creative'. The essay can be tethered to a specific (perhaps polemical) context or written with an ambition to timeless or universal import. Whatever its motivation or avowed theme, the essay possesses a style and a voice. Generic, structural and contextual definitions will vary, but the essay is at least recognizable by its having a certain texture - the essay alters or interferes to some degree with the language of non-fiction. Essayism is a personal, critical and polemical book about the genre, its history and its contemporary possibilities, itself an example of what it describes: an essay that is curious and digressive and at the same time held together

Title:Essayism
Edition Language:English

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    Essayism Reviews

  • Ken

    It starts off being mostly about essays and essay writers, but... well, OK... it ends up being mostly about essays and essay writers, too, only entering stage left with his own essays is Dillon himsel...

  • Jamie Burgess

    Oh, I really enjoyed this book--I bought it from Shakespeare & Co. the other day, and the girl at the register asked me if I'd been there for the event. "No," I said. "But I'm an essayist, so this is ...

  • Bert

    "Brian Dillon could easily have written another book about the essay – its hallmarks, history, current role in literary turf wars, etc. What a relief, then, to find his Essayism navigating away, in ...

  • sevdah

    A collection of particles, essays, attempts at approaching process, style, substance. What I enjoyed most was the eye turned towards his own history in the collection of books and works he studies. A ...

  • Geoff

    Starts as a detailed, fragmentary analysis of the essay as a form and what makes it great. Ends as something......much more. Revelatory....

  • Terry Pitts

    Early on in his book, Brian Dillon quotes the poet and translator Michael Hamburger (1924-2007), who said that "the essay is not a form, has no form; it is a game that creates its own rules." Essayism...

  • Marian

    If you enjoy essays, essayists, a smattering of literary history crossed with craft talk and memoir, if you have ever been depressed or struggled to find your way as a writer and maybe as a professor/...

  • Jessica Foster

    A great meandering essayistic rigourous but non-academic, personal, critical look at the essay form. I really enjoyed the first part of this, it was beautiful. I always enjoy reading about other peopl...

  • Justin Evans

    Very enjoyable; Dillon writes well and with intelligence about books, and himself. It probably helps that I enjoy many of the same writers, and that I know a bit about what he's discussing, but at wor...

  • Joanna

    What a stylist! This book works on so many levels: witty wordplay, some pretty astute literary criticism, and a meditation on the author's battles with depression. My favourite thing is the way Dillon...