What Makes a Good Essay?

  Michele Filgate interviews Leslie Jaminson and Roxanne Gay on their two recent essay collections.  Both agree that a good essay needs to look both inward and outward, combining personal experience and larger cultural ideas, all grounded upon a creativity and intellectual rigor. Well, going along with what both of you said, I wanted to… Read more »

Beyond the Personal

Leslie Jamison describes her sense of the personal essay and its connections to journalism and critical writing.  Her recent collection of essays entitled “The Empathy Exams” combine the personal with the the cultural.  “I’m interested,” she writes, “in essays that follow the infinitude of a private life toward the infinitude of public experience.”   In… Read more »

Unruffled Psychological Still Lives

Andre Aciman considers his youthful innocence, caught between an Eric Rohmer film and his memories of his first love. Aciman asks us to wonder  how our films and novels project upon our experiences insights that we struggle to see. The movie theater on West 57th Street is nearly empty—this is the film’s last run in… Read more »

The Shape of the Essay

Despite what teachers might have taught you, essays often lack a singular form.  Instead they take shape in more organic ways, and resist, as Tim Bascon writes, “predicable approaches.”  But between pure freedom and dogmatic structure, Bascon diagrams a few ways of thinking about the shape and direction an essay can take.  In these approaches,… Read more »

Why are Writers Compelled to Write?

In meditating on the writing life, Scott Esposito explores the power of process in any creative effort. “One morning not too long ago I spent a restful hour of more or less genuine solitude with Rothko’s Seagram murals in a small room in the Tate Modern galleries in London. The room is dimly lit, as… Read more »