Lauren Elkin at The Guardian:
Dillon suggests that we cannot define the essay, but that we might more productively gesture at some quality of essayism: a certain texture, a style, a voice, an “experiment in attention”. The essay will – and by its nature must – always resist attempts to pin it down. It refuses to be contained by any neat summary; it is “diverse and several – it teems”.
Dillon himself is a superbly varied essayist; the author of a range of books about photography, hypochondriacs, the great explosion at a munitions factory in Faversham, Kent, in 1916, and another written in 24 hours called I Am Sitting in a Room, his lines of inquiry are the body and its afflictions, contemporary art and literature, the history of place and ruins. He has a natural affinity for the essay “as a kind of conglomerate: an aggregate either of diverse materials or disparate ways of saying the same or similar things”. Lists are a wonderful tactic of essayism – consider Georges Perec’s astonishing lists in Species of Spaces, from the food and drink he consumed in 1974 to the objects on his desk. Dillon helps us see, via Joan Didion in The White Album, the list as incomplete, the very act of making a list a gesture at what cannot be listed or will always be left out: “the list, if it’s doing its job, always leaves something to be invented or recalled, something forgotten in the moment of its making”.