cover image After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the ‘Essays’

After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the ‘Essays’

Edited by David Lazar and Patrick Madden. Univ. of Georgia, $32.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8203-4815-5

Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592) is the acknowledged creator of the modern essay form, yet today he is relatively unknown, at least according to co-editors Lazar and Madden. To correct this neglect, each of the book’s 28 contributors (including Lazar, who wrote the first piece) reengages with one of Montaigne’s essays through a “contemporary sensibility,” providing a coda that explains how the original piece has been repurposed. The contributors include Brian Doyle on the education of children, Bret Lott on why he writes, Vivian Gornick on the essence of friendship, Steven Church on idleness and the criminalization of loitering, Robert Atwan on the embarrassment of old age, insomniac Jerald Walker on sleep, and Elena Passarello on “The Ceremony of the Interview of Princes” (which, in her hands, is about the pop star Prince). Though Montaigne wrote more than 400 years ago, he feels ageless to these writers, who celebrate his “drily mellifluous voice,” discursive style, and relentless curiosity. With flair, wit, and imagination, these writers embrace and often challenge their mentor, with results that will inspire readers to also seek out the originals. (Sept.)