|Carl H. Klaus|
I say ‘not sure’ because I’ve maybe written quite a few in notebooks, or written words that could be turned into an essay, but have never tried to actually produce one that might be published.
I’d like to try that, and have been thinking about giving it a go this year. One obstacle is voice: Who is writing the essay? Is it me, or some kind of essay-writing version of me? And is it a voice that speaks the truth, or a version of it?
Today I came across an interesting interview with Carl H. Klaus, an essay writer, theorist on the craft of the personal essay, and author of "The Made Up Self" (via here). He says something interesting on this question of voice:
“I do think there’s some double-edged quality in writing personal essays – because despite the fluid nature of the self, we do in the long run develop a conception of our selves that we aspire to be true to in our own writing. And yet I know that such a thing is impossible. To think that I could in fact create a style that was an echo of such a multi-sided thing as the self – that’s simply a cuckoo notion. So what can I say? We do, in fact, aspire to write like ourselves even though we know that in some sense this is an impossibility – much as it’s a difficult notion to imagine never being yourself and yet always being yourself. It’s a paradoxical thing.”
The full interview is worth reading, especially for what he says about Montaigne, which I think I disagree with.