Patrick Madden is perhaps the closest thing we have to a Michel de Montaigne, ver. 2017. Pat began with his meandering, discursive essays in his collection, Quotidiana (Nebraska, 2010) before following up with 2016’s Sublime Physick, which won a Gold Medal this year from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. “Quotidiana” is Pat’s somewhat made-up word, but refers to a collection of materials concerned with the everyday, just like Montaigne’s essays themselves. Quotidiana is also a website Madden maintains, an online compendium of 420 public-domain essays published before 1923. Along with students at BYU, Pat picks the “essayest” of essays each year and posts the winners on his site. The process of selection is unapologetically subjective, which would soften Montaigne’s heart.
Sublime Physick is marked for its playfulness, a 100-page essay that is completely engrossing, and performs a modern take on Montaigne’s rambles into subjects ranging from fatherhood to Eduardo Galeano. Besides Quotidiana and Sublime Physick, Pat co-edited the anthology After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays (University of Georgia Press, 2015), which went on to win a Gold Medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. He co-translated Eduardo Milán's Selected Poems (Shearsman, 2012), and his writing has appeared in The Best American Spiritual Writing, The Best Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Hotel Amerika, Iowa Review, River Teeth, TriQuarterly, The Normal School, and lots of other places. Madden finished his PhD at Ohio University in 2004 and began teaching at BYU. Because who wouldn’t want to talk to a Montaigne reincarnate, I sent Pat a message, and he was kind enough to chat with me over a few weeks through the internet.