Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Essay, essay, essay. What have we here, then?

I've always been a big fan of the essay - no, not the kind that you freak out over at two o'clock in the morning and it has to be in by nine, but the thoughtful writings of commentators on subjects of interest. It seems to be a declining art-form, which is a shame.

It isn't a form of writing I've had a crack at yet, although each time entries are called for for the Landfall Essay Competition, I get a little surge of inspiration, I just haven't acted on it.

The last couple of days have brought to my attention a number of projects involving essays.

When I was at The Press Christchurch Writer's Festival I was delighted to hear Elizabeth Knox say that she had a volume of essays coming out soon. She said they were of a more personal nature, rather than commenting on the universe and everything. I shall be lined up to buy one. (I have Brian Turner's recent Into the Wider World: A Back Country Miscellany on my next to the bed, hope to get to soon, reading pile)

Detectives Beyond Borders drew my attention to a new project by Irish crime writer Declan Burke, where he's invited Irish crime writers to write essays on aspects of crime writing. Now that's a book I'll be lined up for. You can read about the project on Declan's blog Crime Always Pays.

I've always enjoyed Australian Clive James' essays, and have a couple of his tomes in my bookshelf. Mysteries in Paradise drew my attention to this rather rambling essay from Clive on Crime Fiction.

If anyone can recommend any modern day essayists they've enjoyed, please do. I haven't got enough to read. Hah!


Peter Rozovsky said...

I've been reading Montaigne since I was 15, but I've never read much more than "On Cannibals." I attribute this less to my laziness than to the essay's excellence.

Rambling is a good thing for essays to be, so I don't think that's the problem with Peter James on international crime fiction. He's an astute but sometimes shallow reader of crime fiction, and his keen judgments co-exist with condescention, disingenuousness and sweeping generalizations. I've written about the essay a few times on D. Beyond Borders, if you'd care to have a look.

Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Rachael King said...

I'm about to tackle the other kind of essay, the university essay, on elemtns of eth gothic in Wuthering Heights (and maybe Jane Eyre).

I often think that blogs can be essay-like (note I say CAN be, not ARE) - see Emma Darwin's blog for instance.

Vanda Symon said...

Thanks Peter, for the reference back to your blog, and then onto Declan Burke's piece on critical review of crime fiction. I know I get annoyed when newspapers pay lip-service to crime fiction by lumping in five 200 word reviews on crime books, whereas they'd dedicate some decent column space to the review of a literary work.

I agree with you Rachael that some blogs are very essay like, and I delight in those where the blogger is clearly thoughtful, and widely read, and possesses that remarkable ability to convey all their thoughts in a meaningful, informative and entertaining way. (Emma Darwin is a perfect example, and I class your and Mary McCallums's scribblings in that category too.) I'm not that clever!

Good luck with that other essay.

Declan Burke said...

Hi Vanda - Much obliged for the mention, ma'am ... I'll keep you posted as to how the project progresses. Cheers, Dec