It was George Orwell’s golden-eyed toad that made me a writer.
Shimon Shama says, even more writes in his usual articulate way, what stands for writing. In a recent issue of the Financial Times Week-end, he announces thus The Bodley Head & FT Essay Prize by, most importantly, describing what struck him for good and ever in reading outstanding texts.
The best essay writing since Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), who invented the genre, is where this reanimation of experience is shaped by the purposeful urgencies of thought. It is not the thoughtless recycling of experience for its own sake, the fetishising of impulse, which these days is what mostly passes as “blog”; a word well suited to its swampy suck of self-indulgence.
(…) self-implication without literary narcissism; a moral illumination built from a physical experience. Like the best non-fiction long-form writing, it essays a piece of the meaning of what it’s like to live – or, in the case of Hitchens’ last magnificent writing, to die – in a human skin. Essay writing and reading is our resistance to the pygmyfication of the language animal; our shrinkage into the brand, the sound bite, the business platitude; the solipsistic tweet. Essays are the last, heroic stand for the seriousness of prose entertainment; our best hope of liberating text from texting.
Unfortunately, his article is behind the paying wall of the FT. In short, SS writes on why he writes, and thus explain why we read. What ? Books reviewing may be the opportunity to write an excellent essay.