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The Next American Essay Paperback – February 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 475 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (February 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555973752
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555973759
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

D'Agata (Halls of Fame) avows love of the diversity of the essay form, and it is palpable on every page of this unique, esoteric, beautiful book. He tells the reader that he first became enamored of essays when his mother read him the news of the day while he was still in her womb. It is this kind of fantastic, myth-making perspective that runs through each entry of this anthology, whose contributors include such master essayists as John McPhee, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Annie Dillard. Hopping from one genre to another-biography, poetry, philosophy, travel writing, memoir-D'Agata makes the point that the essay is not just one form of writing but can be every form of writing. Although it may occasionally seem that D'Agata has chosen a selection to illustrate how erudite he is-such as Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's "Erato Love Poetry," a set of bewildering fragments and (literally) blank white space-many other choices convey the wondrously infinite possibilities of the essay form. Standouts include "Unguided Tour," Sontag's cranky philosophical dialogue with her inner self; "Life Story," David Shields's string of aphorisms composed entirely of bumper sticker slogans; "Ticket to the Fair," David Foster Wallace's colorful, compassionate tour of the Illinois State Fair; and "The Body," Jenny Boully's postmodern pastiche of autobiographical (or not) footnotes. D'Agata's idea of an essay-or lyric essay, as he comes to call these writings- conflates both art and fact, blurring the line between objectivity and subjectivity. The lyric essay, he says, has a "kind of logic that wants to sing." Readers, listen up, then: here is a book that makes some beautiful music.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

As he demonstrated in Halls of Fame (2001), D'Agata is an impressively poetic essayist, and now he pays tribute to his chosen form in a unique and astutely selected chronological collection of seminal lyric essays. Choosing one essay to represent each year up to the present, D'Agata begins in 1975 not only because it's the year of his birth but also because that's when John McPhee, grand master of what became known as creative nonfiction, published "The Search for Marvin Gardens," a shimmering hybrid of personal observations and lovingly recited facts about the board game Monopoly. A similarly complex mix of the objective and the subjective by Barry Lopez follows, as does a wily rumination by Susan Sontag, and an indelible piece by Joan Didion, empress of the plexus of the intimate and the political. Splendid, form-transcending performances by the likes of Anne Carson, Paul Metcalf, Sherman Alexie, Susan Griffin, and Carole Maso alternate with D'Agata's own sparkling musings on each year and each phase in the essay's evolution. This is a genuinely exhilarating work of literary history. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

John D'Agata is the author of "Halls of Fame," "About a Mountain," and editor of "The Next American Essay" and "The Lost Origins of the Essay." He teaches creative writing at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where he lives.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Consuelo M. Concepcion on April 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
The anthology is made up of about 30 essays by biggies like McPhee and Joan Didion and David Foster Wallace. Essays that everyone's read before. So it's not an anthology you turn to because you want to figure out what's new out there. Really it's anthology you turn to for the sake of the sensibility behind it, John D'Agata's own voice that somehow manages to creep into the anthology and carry the entire 500 pages through on a whimiscal story about why he loves essays. It's got to be the most charming anthology I've ever read. At times bold (many of the essays aren't traditinally thought of as essays), at times funny, sentimental, outright smart, the anthology is trying to show what the essay has in its potential. It's a huge success. But what makes it especially thrilling are the 30 extra essay we get from D'Agata himself, introductions that stand on their own like jewels embedded in the history of a genre.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
Next American Essay will really make you think about the genre-
What is the essay? How do we define it and why? What are our expectations and do they matter?
If you are looking for a traditional anthology this book is not for you, but if you are interested in exploring the possibilities of the essay, this book is a find! Next American Essay offers the reader a lot, but most of it is not on the surface. This is not an anthology that is easy to skim through, but it's definitely worth a serious read.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By james cooper on June 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
The essays in this anthology defy genre catagories. You've got the story that Jamaica Kincaid wrote about growing up in Antigua, and the story that takes the form of a recipe by the awesome Harry Mathews, and a poem by James Wright for heck's sake. Everything according to this anthology is an essay, I mean. What the anthology argues is a little far fetched, but this is the kind of experimenting that we need more of, I think. What unites the selections of "ESSAYS" are the introductions to each of them by John D'Agata, an experimentalist if ever there was one. Sometimes his own whimsies overtake the essays and actually seem more interesting than the selections, but in general this is a book that itself defies genre definition by rewriting the idea of an anthology.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
what's an essay? what's a genre? what's an anthology for godsake? john d'agata, our lyric essay progenitor, maps the past quarter decade of the essay's trajectory in a lyrical and sharp-edged focus on these every questions, challenging not only the very idea of what an essay is, but also the whole notion of what anthologies are supposed to be. this is not a staid study of a dusty academic form; it's a living, breathing celebration of an under sung literary form. and d'agata, this genre's loudest enthusiast, is a the perfect guide.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
...make me laugh. This is the best anthology of essays that anyone's even tried to produce in the past two decades. On top of that it's one of the most inovative anthologies of any genre category that I know of. What's missing is something of David Foster Wallace's more wilder side. Needs something from Ben Marcus, Harry Matthews, Joanne Beard, Susan Howe, and Lynn Hejinian.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Adam Weinstein on May 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You don't have to like John D'Agata or some of his showier cultural stunts to like this work. He does a good job of backgrounding and contextualizing experimental nonfiction, and some of the selections in here are to die for (a personal essay told deftly and funnily in only footnotes? Tell me you didn't wish you'd thought of that first). Anyone in a creative writing nonfic track or studying contemporary lit should find this a worthwhile read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alexander D. Yule on October 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book transformed what and how I thought about non-fiction, and by extension, writing in general. John D'Agata guides you through a world of words full of strange and at-times terrifying creations. Originally assigned to me for a class on creative non-fiction, it is one of only a few works that has stayed with me through the years, a constant source of inspiration and creative awakening. This book showed me just how exciting and transformative writing can be.
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By gobblegoose on June 11, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was hoping for something more elevated. This reminded me of my days in high school, when being miserable was cool. No thank you.
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