True essayists rarely write novels. Essayists are a species of metaphysician: they’re inquisitive and analytic about the least grain of being. Novelists go about the strenuous business of marrying and burying their people, or else they send them to sea or to Africa or at least out of town. Essayists in their stillness ponder love and death. Only inner space–interesting, active, significant–can conceive the contemplative essay. Essays, unlike novels, emerge from the sensations of the self. Fiction creeps into foreign bodies: the novelist can inhabit not only a sex not his own but also beetles and noses and hunger artists and nomads and beasts. The essay is personal.
–from “Introduction” by Cynthia Ozick
found in Best American Essays: 1998