The essay form is a surprisingly slippery thing – fundamentally, an essay is a short piece on a given subject from an author’s perspective. So, somewhere on the spectrum between short story and journalism, lies essay. I enjoy the form. In particular, I regard the popular styles of Adam Gopnik and Malcolm Gladwell, whose conversational pieces make hairpin points with buttery ease. As I experiment with the form, the best discussion on the topic of the essay itself I have encountered is esteemed New York City based British author and professor Simon Schama’s piece “Why I write.” In his summation, Schama calls essay writing to arms:
Like the best non-fiction long-form writing, it essays a piece of the meaning of what it’s like to live – or, in the case of Hitchens’ last magnificent writing, to die – in a human skin. Essay writing and reading is our resistance to the pygmy-fication of the language animal; our shrinkage into the brand, the sound bite, the business platitude; the solipsistic tweet. Essays are the last, heroic stand for the seriousness of prose entertainment; our best hope of liberating text from texting.