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Essayism Paperback – 7 Jun 2017
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'[A] wonderful, subtle and deceptively fragmentary little book...enjoyably roundabout and light-fingered...To borrow from one of Barthes's titles, this is a lover's discourse, the love object being writing, not only in the essay but it all its forms. It is also a testament to the consolatory, even the healing, powers of art. And at the last, in its consciously diffident fashion- Dillon is a literary flaneur in the tradition of Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin- it is its own kind of self-made masterpiece.'- John Banville, Irish Times
'It is somewhat unseemly for a critic to confess that their immediate reaction to a book is one of unremitting envy. But Brian Dillon's study of the essay is so careful and precise in its reading of a constellation of authors- Derrida and Barthes, Didion and Sontag, Browne and Burton, Woolf and Carlos Williams, Cioran and Perec- that my overall feeling was jealousy...A remarkable meditation on memory...above all he claims to admire style, and he is exceptionally good at defining the style he likes...His account of depression is reflected in thinking about the essay. Is it something composed of fragments and shards? Is it a coolly organised progression? Is it about confession? Is it about concealment? The book's excellence lies in the way these paradoxes are held suspended...The book, ultimately, is about how literature can make a difference. It is a beautiful and elegiac volume. I can give no greater compliment that to say that having read it, I re-read it.' --Stuart Kelly, New Statesman
'[W]ritten in lucid, exacting and unsentimental prose, Essayism is a vital book for people who turn to art- and especially writing- for consolation.'- Lauren Elkin, Guardian
'Brian Dillon could easily have written another book about the essay - its hallmarks, history, current role in literary turf wars, etc. What a relief, then, to find his Essayism navigating away, in its opening pages, from such a project, and turning instead toward this surprising, probing, edifying, itinerant, and eventually quite moving book, which serves as both an autobiographia literaria and a vital exemplar of how deeply literature and language can matter in a life.' --Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
'Erudite and elegiac...Essayism is a constellation of close readings, its arguments coming to the fore through the repetition and rhyme between its sections. Dillon can locate the single comma or dash whose placement somehow sums up a writer's aesthetic commitments (he does especially graceful work with Hardwick's sentences).' --Will Rees, Times Literary Supplement
From the Back Cover
Imagine a type of writing so hard to define its very name means a trial, effort or attempt. An ancient form with an eye on the future, a genre poised between tradition and experiment. The essay wants above all to wander, but also to arrive at symmetry and wholeness; it nurses competing urges to integrity and disarray, perfection and fragmentation, confession and invention. How to write about essays and essayists while staying true to these contradictions? Essayism is a personal, critical and polemical book about the genre, its history and contemporary possibilities. It's an example of what it describes: an essay that is curious and digressive, exacting yet evasive, a form that would instruct, seduce and mystify in equal measure. Among the essayists to whom he pays tribute - from Virginia Woolf to Georges Perec, Joan Didion to Sir Thomas Browne - Brian Dillon discovers a path back into his own life as a reader, and out of melancholia to a new sense of writing as adventure.See all Product description
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