Excellent news on essays

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A new publisher dedicated to the personal essay, Notting Hill Editions, launches tomorrow with the release of seven titles around 150 pages, available in hardcover and e-book. Selections range from the fairly traditional Roland Barthes to a more experimental work by Georges Perec.

The Guardian quotes Lucasta Miller, Notting Hill Editions’ editorial director:

Now is the perfect time to reinvigorate the essay. As journalistic articles get shorter and shorter, we need a platform for serious, literary writing. Today there seems to be little on offer between the soundbite and the monolithic monograph. A skilfully-written essay can be an incredibly satisfying and stimulating read.

Notting Hill Editions’ website has a couple terrific features. First, they offer an essay library, currently with 100 selections from diverse thinkers such as  Plutarch, Sigmund Freud, George Orwell, and David Sedaris. Second, the Journal page of the website will offer a weekly commissioned essay. The first is a piece by Miller that gives an overview of the genre, and with it a survey of worthy examples. She discusses of the mission of the publisher:

Our aim is to offer depth without length, insight without extraneous detail, and an eclectic array of authorial voices. Our strategy for reviving the essay tradition is a new departure in publishing, with a two-pronged approach designed to nurture a complementary relationship between the traditional hardback book and online publishing.

We wouldn’t give up the flashes of news and opinion that we devour on a daily, or hourly, basis from the web. But so many of us feel an equal need for literary-quality reading of just the right length on meaningful and relevant subjects, and this venture looks to be a great resource.