Essays, ancient or modern, can seem precious in their self-presentation, like things too well made ever to be handled. Touch them however and they are likely to come alive with the sedimented evidence of years; a constellation of glittering motes surrounds the supposedly solid thing, and the essay reveals itself to have been less compact and smooth than thought, but instead unbounded and mobile, a form with ambitions to be unformed. Which is to say — I can’t prove it yet — that the venerable genre of the essay has something to do with the future, with a sense of constant dispersal and coalescence. And for what it’s worth my attachment to it seems of the same conflicted order: I want essays to have some integrity (formally, not morally, speaking), their strands of thought and style and feeling so tightly woven they present a smooth and gleaming surface. And I want all this to unravel in the same moment, in the same work; I want the raggedness, the patchwork, a labyrinth’s-worth of stray threads. You might say I’m torn.
Well, yes: exactly.