Brian Dillon’s ‘Essayism’

Tegan Bennet Daylight at the Sydney Review of Books:

What is Essayism? Its writer admits to us that he has ‘no clue how to write about the essay as a stable entity or established class, how to trace its history diligently from uncertain origins through successive phases of literary dominance’ – and praise be for that. The book is instead a series of attempts, of essays, of course, at delineating or describing the form. Each chapter is a few pages, beginning with an idea: ‘On essays and essayists’, ‘On origins’, ‘On lists’, and as the book begins to become something else, ‘On consolation’. The book is also a story of the book being written, and of Dillon going under entirely. ‘Each day I sat at my desk in an office at the end of the garden,’ he tells us, early on, ‘and cried and smoked and tried to write – tried to write this book – and each day finally gave myself up to fantasies of suicide. I would walk out of this suburb along country lanes to a secluded stretch of railway line and lay my head on the track in the moonlight.’

more here.