As a fan of the essay in all its variations, I take great pleasure in spending time with almost any of my favorite essay collections.
As a means of musing on a specific topic with a personal slant, or relating an experience in eloquent language, the essay’s short format is an element that makes it especially attractive. Much as I hate to admit this, my leisure reading time is terribly limited. Like many of us, I may only be able to snatch 20 minutes here or there to read, making essays — along with poetry and short stories — ideal for a lifestyle that frequently feels scheduled to the point of toxicity.
I can only imagine that our narrowing window for quiet time with a book (or Kindle) is part of the resurgence of popularity in this versatile and enduring form.
Say Goodbye to the Academic Essay
My teacher friends may dispute this remark, but I am happy to bid farewell to the academic essay. I realize that it has served its purpose (and likely still does), but who doesn’t recall the tight-laced compositional structure that bound us in our teenage years?
I suppose we should raise a glass to the discipline that taught us how to construct a reasonable argument. You know the drill: an introductory paragraph setting forth your thesis, a second that presents your strongest supporting point, a third with further evidence of your position, a fourth that begins the transition to your conclusion, and the very last of course, summary reinforcement.
Those of us who are essay enthusiasts know the modern and contemporary form to be far more seductive — gloriously individual, richly stylistic, and up for almost anything; we revere the diverse handling as much as the subject matter. At their best, essays are distinctively capricious, curmudgeonly, witty, willful, playful, pretentious, feverish, feisty, luxurious, lyrical…
And on that last, when language meanders into the realm of music — each note sounding with precision and clarity — I for one couldn’t be more thrilled.
Dabbling in the Essay
If I dabble in the essay, it is in part a conscious effort to practice the art of argumentation. It is also a desire to keep my writing instrument reasonably intact. Most importantly, the essay serves me as I dig deeper into what I feel and what I believe. It is introspection that can be, at times, self-conscious, with the goal of raising my own degree of consciousness. It is a mirror and a mechanism to access my truest stories.
Other reasons that I love the essay?
That’s easy: It’s fun. From the prickly to the precocious, I love it in all its incarnations! Essays are a fascinating way to understand ourselves and likewise, to enter someone else’s mindset. And when I can entice other writers to tackle a subject and write from the heart, or for that matter, the intellect, even better.
So on a stormy day in my part of the world, with a stack of work that demands my attention and a spotty Internet connection to boot, I leave you with the following, which I hope you will enjoy: the various essay series that have taken place here over the past few years, courtesy of a number of wonderful guest writers.
You may also note that I tweaked the sidebar, placing the many essay series to date under a single location by that name. I look forward to continuing to host other writers as they elaborate on a diversity of topics, and I welcome your suggestions for subjects you might like to explore.
Any essay collection recommendations you would like to share?
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