A recent interview in Salon.com by Michele Filgate with essayists Roxane Gay and Leslie Jamison about the current state of the essay suggests the time is right for the genre's crown to pass from men to women. Filgate notes that both Gay and Jamison are writers with "a talent for writing toward a larger truth," which is what all good essayists should be about.
Among the contemporary female essayists named in the interview, in addition to Gay and Jamison, are Jo Ann Beard, Eula Bliss, Maggie Nelson, and Sarah Manguso. These names join the veteran essayists Virgina Woolf, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, and Annie Dillard.
What are some of the characteristics of a good essay according to Gay and Jamison?
- Forward movement
- Intellectual rigor
- Inward and outward gaze
- Trustworthy voice
- Attention to lives other than that of the writer
Amen and amen.
[Photo: taken in Chicago from Millenium Park]