The problem of the personal essay is bridging the massive gap between me and you. Many personal essays, especially those written by queer people whose experiences are so varied and idiosyncratic, tend to share an almost unmediated picture of experience. I sometimes express dissatisfaction when an essay glances off me and leaves no lasting trace. I don’t get it. Then I’m reminded that that’s sort of the point. You read the piece, and if you share the experience, you empathize. If not, too bad. It was not for you anyway. But a melancholy taste is left in my mouth.
I have seen so many reviews of books which try to convince you to pick it up and read using a string of adjectives. This novel is inspiring, confident, delightful. The prose (it is always prose) is handsome, remarkable, elegant. The dialogue is crisp, witty, fit for the screen. I am always left unconvinced by this language. I want to read good books, books that could be called delightful or elegant or what have you. But what I really value in writing is its ability to engage me deeply.