Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sally Tweets; or, Beating the Essay

Essay: A loose sally of the mind.
--From Samuel Johnson's Dictionary, as quoted too often.

From a real review of a real book: "Traces the story of a relationship--or does it? For X, ambiguity is the point." Dude.

& what I mean by "dude" is that talk of "the essay" has devolved into stonerisms.

I'm wary of abstract nouns preceded by articles. "The Essay." "The People." There are people & there are essays. That shld be enough.

Maybe my problem is that I don't need to "essai" to recognize that what I write - "The Journalism" - can never be anything but an attempt.

But what if we did put an article b4 journalism? The Journalism? Wld that make Walt Whitman, Zora Neale Hurston, & others ok again?

Robin Hemley, in a recent essay, mocks the essayistic tendency of arranging "facts" gleaned from a google, w/ the pretense of library time.

The pretense of library time shld clue us in to the idea that too much of the current "essay" is style. Sort of bibliographic steampunk.

Like most longform journalists I know, I spend *a lot* of time in the library. If that search is part of the story, great. if not, fine.

But I trip myself up w/ use of "story." Some essayists insist that's conservative. Only if you have a conservative idea of what a story is.

The fetishization of form, *at the deliberate expense of story,* is a greater conservatism. It's the old "Art," plaything of aristocrats.

Sounds like you're beating a straw man there, bro. Who actually does that?

You wouldn't understand, you dirty journalist. (But no, not a straw man at all. As an Essai-iste, I refuse to name names.)

Do we need essays to tell us "ambiguity is the point"? We already knew we can never really know. The "point" is to try, anyway. To essay.

To "essay" -- to try -- means to experiment. & yet increasingly the academic creative essay is inadvertent parody. Replication.

I think you just need to take your mind out for a good, loose sally.

Sally Tweets; or, Beating The Essay.