When I was in high school, I thought I’d like to write the Great American Novel. I made several attempts at telling stories, but I found I just didn’t have the knack of inventing a character other than myself. In fact, I thought later of writing a series of short stories using a private investigator named Emeric Toth, patterned after me, of course; but the stories just did not take wing.
I have come to realize that I am what the French would call a writer of feuilletons, or to be even more exact, causeries. According to Wikipedia, the latter term refers to a piece that is:
generally short, light and humorous and is often published as a newspaper column (although it is not defined by its format). Often the causerie is a current-opinion piece, but it contains more verbal acrobatics and humor than a regular opinion or column. In English, causerie is commonly known as “personal story”, “funny story” or “column” instead.
The term feuilleton refers to a kind of op-ed newspaper piece, but can mean a whole lot of other things besides, such as (in today’s France) a soap opera.
Essentially, I write short essays on a multiplicity of topics that run the gamut from politics (though not so much any more, since politics in America got so dirty), religion, literature, film, travel, meditations, humor, science and the Internet, weekend excursions, to you name it. I’ll take on virtually any subject, though I am averse to Internet flame wars and quickly dump water on their beginnings. While I like to say what I feel, I am averse to back-and-forth debates. This is not so much because of any uncertainty in my convictions as an unwillingness to participate in the Grand Ego Theatre of the Internet.
As a literary medium, feuilletons and causeries are definitely writing in a minor key. My words will never be carved into stone or memorized by legions of school children. They are not detailed enough to change anyone’s mind about anything. They serve to entertain and inform, and perhaps point the way to other sources that do a better job in that area.
A few days ago, I re-read Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. I could have chosen instead to re-read one of the Bard’s better-known works, but I have a certain affection for his minor plays. Maybe that’s why I write the way I do.