10 of the Greatest Essays on Writing Ever Written

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“On Style,” Susan Sontag, from Against Interpretation. Read it here.

As much about criticism as it is about writing (and perhaps more), Sontag dissects style versus form versus content versus the conceptions of all these things that we have in our heads.

“In other words, what is inevitable in a work of art is the style. To the extent that a work seems right, just, unimaginable otherwise (without loss or damage) , what we are responding to is a quality of its style. The most attractive works of art are those which give us the illusion that the artist had no alternatives, so wholly centered is he in his style. Compare that which is forced, labored, synthetic in the construction of Madame Bovary and of Ulysses with the ease and harmony of such equally ambitious works as Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The first two books I have mentioned are great indeed. But the greatest art seems secreted, not constructed.”