True, Short, and Absolutely Brilliant. The Essay.

January 2, 2014 | Ray

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Typewriter-keys

Essay.  This word strikes fear and rouses feelings of trying, trying to fill in blank white pages under the deadline and the scrutiny of fluorescent lights.  Did you get anxious at the sight of that word? Maybe nauseaus? Want to barf? That's how I feel seeing the word.  Yes, writing one for school is wretched for many.  But that's in school. In fact, the essay is a loveable thing.

Outside, elsewhere, the essay is a great format for hard-hitting work that sucker-punches you in the gut - in a good way. This is a territory void of fictional vampires and romance, but filled with anecdotes of real-life blood lust and lurid emotions.  And what if you don't like what you're reading? No problem, it was short anyway.

Curious? 

Check out The Best American Nonrequired Reading - edited by the great Dave Eggers. Heck, just check out Dave Eggers, too! Or The Best American Essays of the Century.

 

OK, so where would you begin? Start naming names.

Sheila Heti: "Why Go Out?Toronto author on the pulse of today's zeitgeist, Heti - in pyjamas - asks why bother going out at all?  Check out her other collected (and funny!) stories & essays.

David Foster Wallace, "Consider the Lobster" Once you read it you'll never look at lobster the same way again. Here's one version of the essay online and it's in his book,  "Consider the Lobster".

Joan Didion, "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" Ever wanted to live a wreckless, contradictory life in Southern California during the 60s? Accounts of hippie ashrams, free love and free living, nouveau riche, and the many perplexities of California - these essays remain pointant and incredibly true today.  

Didion is the considered the champion of the essay.  Here are some of her best essays online.  And two knock-out collections of essays, The White Album and We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live

 

 Where else?

The Electric Typewriter: Great site to browse incredible essays from top journalists and writers.   Just browse a subject and you'll fall into this rabbit hole.

Longform: New, collected writing and articles from top magazines.

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