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Dear Friends: Here’s my prospectus for “The Art of the Essay,” a course I’ll run, at a location T/B/D in New York City, in the summer or fall of 2017. Enrollment is capped at 12; the cost is $250 for four three-hour sessions. If you’re interested, please contact me A.S.A.P.—first come, first served—at (Feel free to SHARE or re-post.)

The Art of the Essay

What is it?

A brief but intensive master class in deep reading and essay writing, modeled on the small, intimate seminar courses that are the mainstay of M.F.A. programs. The Art of the Essay will draw on that discussion-driven format, but will also incorporate lectures on the art and craft of the essay by the instructor, drawing on his extensive experience in the genre. As well, we’ll workshop brief excerpts from your essays in progress.

(See below for details. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have, after reading this FAQ, at

I’m not a professional writer, and don’t have an M.F.A. Do I qualify?

This course offers no certificate or credits of any kind, nor is there any guarantee that it will result in your byline, in bright lights, in The New Yorker. There are no prerequisites, academic or professional, beyond a devotion to the art and craft of writing; a serious interest in the essay form; a commitment to coming to class well prepared; and a passion for the spirited exchange of ideas.

When will the class run? Summer or fall 2017.

What’s the format? Four sessions of three hours each, on Saturdays or Sundays (depending on everyone’s schedules), stretching over four weeks.

What’s it cost? $250.

What’s the class size? Class size is capped at 12. Note: The class will only run if the class fills and all registrants have paid, via PayPal, before our first session.

What’s the location? TBD. If all parties are agreeable, each participant will host one session. Alternatively, we’ll meet in the quiet back room of one of Manhattan’s few remaining bars or cafes that are TV-free and affordable. The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, an adult-learning initiative with no brick-and-mortar space, has employed this strategy with notable success.

I’m sold! How do I register?

Send an e-mail to, asking that your name be added to the list of prospective registrants. Once 12 class members have signed up, I’ll notify you that the class is on, and you’ll pay, that same day, via PayPal or electronic transfer.

I’m intrigued, but I need more information. Can you give me some more details about the course?

The Art of the Essay ranges over the personal essay, the most common form in American popular media; the polemical essay (think H.L. Mencken, Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, Rebecca Solnit, Bell Hooks, Roxane Gay); the narrative-nonfiction essay (Oliver Sacks, Lawrence Weschler), and even the experimental/avant-garde essay, which draws on the innovations of Surrealism, Oulipo, postmodernism, punk, and hip-hop to push the envelope of the form. The class will be reading-intensive, quickly overflying a variety of genres and styles, ancient and up-to-the-minute, while offering a crash course in the art of Deep Reading. “Great writers are great readers,” the saying goes; The Art of the Essay emphasizes the importance of stealing from the best—understanding not only the intellectual and aesthetic approaches that make great essayists great but also the mechanics of literary technique at the granular level of syntax, vocabulary, and overall structure, and how to use those techniques to unlock your creativity, free your literary voice, and take your work to the next level.

About the instructor: I’m an established a cultural critic and essayist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Daily Beast, Elle, Wired, Rolling Stone, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, Cabinet, Bookforum, and The Washington Post Book Review, among other publications. I’ve been a professor of journalism at NYU, a Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellow at UC Irvine, a Hertog author in Columbia University’s Hertog Fellowship program, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome. My books include The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century (both Grove/Atlantic) My latest book is the University of Minnesota essay collection I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts: Drive-by Essays on American Dread, American Dreams. My biography of the author, illustrator, and legendary eccentric Edward Gorey will be published by Little, Brown in 2017.

More about me here.

Links to some of my essays:

Skin in the Game: An American Gothic, in Black and White,” an essay on race hate, the history of lynching, and the murder of Trayvon Martin. Thought Catalog, July 22, 2013.

Strunk and White’s Macho Grammar Club: The sleek, no-frills esthetic of Modernism and the gray-flannel ’50s both influenced the utilitarian mindset that dictates the rules of usage in The Elements of Style.” Essay. The Daily Beast, July 12, 2015.

A Season in Hell,” lengthy essay on My Cancer Year, the psychology of being a patient, the “overlit purgatory” of the hospital, and how being a writer kept me sane in the face of a near-fatal disease, Boing Boing, April 12, 2012.

Let’s put the guilt back in guilty pleasures. Guilty pleasures aren’t always merely self-loathing elitism or ironic tastelessness. They can also be a sign of genuine ambivalence—a feeling to cherish.” Essay. Boing Boing, February 2, 2015.

Pipe Dreams: The Curious Case of Rene Magritte,” longform essay on the Surrealist artist Rene Magritte, his interest in philosophers such as Hegel and Foucault, and his role as a philosophical detective, sleuthing out what he called “the mystery” inherent in reality. Thought Catalog, May 19, 2014.

The Importance Of Being Ernest: Hemingway Meets The Gay Gothic,” essay on Hemingway’s anxious masculinity—his homophobia, latent homosexuality, transvestic fantasies, hair fetishism, and overall “genderqueerness,” pegged on the “restored edition” of A Moveable Feast, Thought Catalog, December 9, 2011.

A list of selected publications here.

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