Saturday, August 4, 2012

(Mostly) New & (Definitely) Noteworthy Essays

The fa­mil­i­ar es­say­ist [in the genre’s hey­day] didn’t speak to the mil­lions; he spoke to one read­er, as if the two of them were sit­ting side by side in front of the crack­ling fire with their cravats loosened, their fa­vor­ite stim­u­lants at hand, and a long even­ing of con­ver­sa­tion stretch­ing be­fore them. His view­point was sub­ject­ive, his frame of ref­er­ence con­crete, his style di­gress­ive, his ec­cent­ri­cit­ies con­spicu­ous, and his laughter usu­ally at his own ex­pense.
~Ann Fadiman

When thinking of the world "essay", don't let your mind get drawn into images of school homework assignments.  From Michel de Montaigne to Christopher Hitchens, essayists seek to entertain, enlighten, & engage with their very personal viewpoint. Today might not be the "heyday" of the essayist, but I think that there are some fine essays out there for your reading pleasure, on a disparate variety of subjects, from art to caving, fashion to Def Leppard, creating to being. As Alexander Smith says in "Of the writing of essays", "Everything I see or hear is an es­say in bud. The world is every­where whis­per­ing es­says, and one need only be the world’s amanu­en­sis." 

Higher Gossip: Essays and Criticism by John Updike [eBook only in our catalog]

Cleopatra's Nose: 39 Varieties of Desire by Judith Thurman

Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews, 1989-2010 by Geoff Dyer

Woolgathering by Patti Smith

Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissell

Living, Thinking, Looking : Essays by Siri Hustvedt

Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson

When I Was a Child I Read Books by Marilynne Robinson

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood  [eBook only in our catalog]

Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Writings on Politics, Ice Cream, Churchill, and My Mother by Simon Schama

Lost in Language & Sound, or, How I Found My Way to the Arts: Essays by Ntozake Shange

Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography by Errol Morris

Pulphead : Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan

For the Time Being by Annie Dillard [eBook only in our catalog]
Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places by Ursula K. Le Guin

Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez

Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work by Bell Hooks

Other Colors: Essays and a Story by Orhan Pamuk

The Merry Recluse: A Life in Essays by Caroline Knapp

For a variety of short pieces on different topics, try a keyword search in the catalog using the words "best writing".  You'll find collections that include the best of writing on language, science, spirituality, music, travel, the military, & more in recent years.

1 comment:

Scott, ABCLS Staff Member said...

Essays are endangered, in our 140-character Twitter world. But they are a wonderful form, and a good essay is a gift to the ages.

One of my favorite quotes on essays, from Amos Oz:

"Every time I agree with myself, I write an essay. When I disagree with myself, I know I'm pregnant with a short story."