Taking in everything from town planning to cruising for sex, this mongrel genre claims an eccentric free range not available to other kinds of writing

To call an essay unconventional is a bit of a redundancy, in that the essay typically resists convention. At any length it is a mongrel genre that roves freely across the territory of other genres. Book-length essays are somewhat rarer, and maybe even wilder. They tend to be slim books that somehow do everything, that borrow from journalism, from poetry, from memoir, and from a range of academic disciplines. They draw from historical practices, too, from the commonplace book, from the Japanese zuihitsu, from the African American art of oratory, and from Montaigne’s Essais.

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