hilton als, the art of the essay

great inter­view in this edi­tion of the paris review with an archive re-pub­li­ca­tion of writer hilton als.

here’s an excerpt from the foreword:

in this 2016 inter­view con­ver­sa­tion with the schol­ar jacque­line golds­by, als explains his very per­son­al con­nec­tion to james baldwin’s lega­cy: “bald­win was very real to me, all the time. it was through owen dod­son, who was, i think, the sec­ond black per­son to go to the yale school of dra­ma, and bald­win was always a liv­ing thing to me because of their rela­tion­ship. owen was a great direc­tor and was the one who first staged baldwin’s play the amen corner.”

in his open, ­omniv­o­rous writ­ing on lit­er­a­ture, ­visu­al art, and per­for­mance, hilton als has made crit­i­cal analy­sis and intro­spec­tion a con­joined prac­tice. the essay, which he has called “a form with­out a form,” is his pri­ma­ry mode, and he invari­ably inter­weaves fam­i­ly and friend­ship, amer­i­can fix­a­tions on and lived ­expe­ri­ences of race and sex­u­al­i­ty, metaphor and real­i­ty. in “the first step of becom­ing an art his­to­ri­an,” one of als’s ear­li­est pub­lished pieces, from 1985, he describes com­ing “to real­ize a desire to relate the illu­sion of mem­o­ry, based on [oth­ers’] facts, to the illu­so­ry present.” it may still be as good a state­ment of his pur­pose and meth­ods as any.


you can find it here


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