Adam Kirsch tackles contemporary essayists:
Essayists such as Rothbart and Crosley and Sedaris, one might say, represent the prose equivalent of reality TV. They, too, claim to be recording their lives, while in fact they are putting on a performance; and they, too, count on the reader to know the rules of the game, the by now familiar game of meta. What makes this kind of performance different from the performance of a fiction writer is that, by “acting” under their own names, they inevitably involve motives of amour-propre. The essayist is concerned, as a fiction writer is not, with what the reader will think of him or her. That is why the new comic essayists are never truly confessional, and never intentionally reveal anything that might jeopardize the reader’s esteem. “Love me” is their all-but-explicit plea.
Alan Jacobs chips in two cents.