I’m very glad The Essay Review exists. What I’ve found since I left graduate school and started teaching nonfiction is mostly a dearth of criticism on nonfiction, so yes: it’s time for us in the academy to put aside our CNF junk and argue smart things about how our genre operates and what makes it distinct. Lucky for us, smart arguments are themselves nonfiction, so it still feels like we’re getting real work done.
However, am I the only one who reads the following, printed in TER‘s first issue…
The essay, Montaignan [sic] or not, does not generally move into textual lecturing, does not become self-righteous, and does not budge from its original humble professorship or lose its ability to examine the quotidian with a careful eye. [. . .] The essay should maintain its power with virility and ardor.
…and wants to immediately start committing himself to essays that lecture, are self-righteous, that quit with examining the quotidian, and that seek never to establish any virile power?
I mean, it’s weird how everyone goes on and on about the essay as undefineable genre and then yet loves to pin down exactly what an essay should do in all its dumb glory. Let’s, yes, come up with a theory of how essays work. Some essays? Absolutely. All essays? Good luck. In the meantime, don’t tell me how my essays should behave.
Or, no: do. Do tell me. It’ll make me write something better out of spite.
Thanks to Barry Grass for the heads-up on this new publication.