Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Best American Essays 2009 Paperback – October 8, 2009
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
About the Author
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
The other obvious imprint of Mary Oliver's is a preponderance of essays about either essays in specific or the act of writing in general. Some readers looking for a breadth of human experience in a volume of essays may consider this to be a bit too much authorial navel gazing. One such essay, Chris Arthur's "(En)trance", which takes as its titular subject the pillars on his mother's family farm estate, I found to be somewhat tedious and too self-centered, but after plowing through that one (it happens to be the first selection in the volume), many gems await the reader, including:
-- John Updike's "The Writer in Winter", one of his last published pieces, which accurately describes the trajectory and different challenges facing a writer over the course of his career and fame, written in perfectly erudite Updike style.
-- Brian Doyle's "The Greatest Nature Essay Ever", which truly is; no need to say more.
-- John Berger's "Portrait of a Masked Man", a fawning, highly sympathetic portrait of a Mexican Zapatista revolutionary, which unabashedly uses the power of the written word to shape and sway public opinion.
-- Kathryn Miles's "Dog Is Our Copilot", an informative essay about biology, evolution and Charles Darwin's affinity for his terrier that illustrates the special bond between humans and dogs, and how it has shaped each of the species.
While I would cite these four as being the best, I enjoyed most of the others, and felt that I learned something from each. Besides Chris Arthur's essay, the only other essay which I didn't care for was Richard Rogriguez's "The God of the Desert", which I found to be too abstract and disjointed to make much sense of - there is indeed a strong point he is making about the impact of geography on religion, but he goes about making that point in a very convoluted way.
All in all I do recommend the 2009 volume of The Best American Essays. If you happen to be physically holding the book and weighing it, both literally and figuratively, wondering whether to purchase it, I can assure you that, even though it is thin, you will get your money's worth.
The first seems to be a fault that is endemic to this particular collection - there is far too much navel-gazing going on in these essays. I didn't find
*the travails of Michael Lewis living in a mansion beyond his means,
*a ten-page account of Garret Lewis's ongoing fight with deer in his backyard,
*10 pages about the personal health and fainting history of someone called James Marcus,
(each of the above delivered in prose that is at best adequate, and with no apparent irony)
anywhere near as fascinating as the authors of the respective pieces apparently did. I doubt that most Amazon readers will have a different reaction - these pieces smacked of solipsistic self-indulgence from start to finish.
My second criticism is probably more a reflection of my personal taste, and may not be shared by other readers. But I felt that Mary Oliver's background as a poet shone through, with the result that many of the pieces had a kind of "writerly" quality that might appeal to other writers, but was a bit precious for a general reader like me. This was particularly true of pieces like Chris Arthur's "(En)trance", Patricia Hampl's "The Dark Art of Description", Brian Doyle's "The Greatest nature Essay Ever", Cynthia Ozick's "Ghost writers", John Updike's "The Writer in Winter", any of which might be of interest to someone attending a writer's workshop, but none of which seemed to me to hold much interest for a general reader.
And, of course, it didn't help my evaluation that one of the longest pieces in the collection is by Richard Rodriguez, a writer whose self-indulgent posturing and whining gets on my last nerve. In a slim collection that doesn't even exceed 200 pages, the 21 pages devoted to his contribution "the God of the Desert" could surely have been put to better use.
Not to end on too sour a note, honorable mention is surely due to;
Sue Allison's "Taking a Reading"
Jill Mc Corkle's "Cuss Time"
David James Duncan's soaring "Cherish this Ecstasy"
and Kathryn Miles's wonderful "Dog is our Copilot"
But these amount to no more than 25 pages of 190, or - if you prefer - 4 essays out of 22. a disappointing batting average.
I think I've just argued myself back down to a two-star review*. Your mileage may vary.
*: Well, actually not, since that apparently corresponds to active dislike on the amazon scale. I didn't actively dislike the book, just didn't particularly like it a whole lot.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The Mansion: A Subprime Parable - Michael Lewis. Humorous
And Such small Deer - Its mosaic format lends it liberty to bundle different time myths...Read more