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The Best American Essays of the Century (The Best American Series) Paperback – October 10, 2001
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Other chords sound repeatedly as well: the problem of our relationship with nature (Annie Dillard, John Muir, and Gretel Ehrlich); the difficulty of identity in disrupted times (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joan Didion, and Michael Herr). In her essay "The White Album," Didion famously declares: "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." The stories Oates has collected are not easy. Here is the hard-won truth, from writers unwilling to forgive even themselves. Even Martin Luther King Jr. doesn't let himself off the hook, as he writes in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail": "If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me." --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Mark Twain's "Corn-pone Opinions" leads off. "'You tell me whar a man gits his corn-pone, en I"ll tell you what his 'pinion is'". Ms Oates says Twain is making a "ringing denunciation of cultural chauvinism". I read Twain as saying we are all captives of the conformity we accept as the price for the approval of our peers. Either way the editors are as guilty of "corn-pone opinions" as any of us. More than a third of the pieces are by famous authors -- best-known for their fiction and poetry rather than for their essays. Writers who worked primarily in the essay form are badly under-represented, e.g. Hannah Arendt, Dwight McDonald, Roger Angell, Jaques Barzun, AJ Liebling, MFK Fisher, Lewis Lapham, Noel Perrin, Nati Hentoff, Walter Lippmann, VS Naipul, Calvin Trillin, Andrew Tobias, and Gary Wills. Atwan appends a bibliography of 200 "notable" authors excluded from the collection.
Oates says her collection's theme is the "...expression of personal experience within the historical".Read more ›
Arranged chronologically, the essays lean heavily toward reflections on the human condition within American culture. The writing is, without exception, eloquent and insightful. Race is a pervasive theme and inspires the most powerful pieces. The best essay in the book is James Baldwin's "Notes of a Native Son;" visceral and intimate, full of pain, bewilderment and searing honesty, whole of heart and intellect. Pieces by Maya Angelou, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Langston Hughes, no matter how familiar, still shiver the soul with the conjunction of powerful intellect, soul-searing experience and the intimacy of an articulate voice.
My second favorite essay could hardly be more different. John Muir's "Stickeen," has it all: adventure, peril, pathos, the passion for nature and exploration, and the curious relationship between man and dog; a rousing good story.
Other themes place the writer in his contemporary culture; F.Read more ›
There are a considerable number of essays on race, on the condition of the blacks in America. Richard Wright, Zola Hurston, Baldwin, Maya Angelou. There are outstanding essays on science by Lewis Thomas, Stephen J. Gould, Oliver Sachs. There are literary explorations and explorations of the American lanscape and mind.
Among the other writers included are Eudora Welty, Susan Sontag, Tom Wofe, Donald Hall, Cynthia Ozick ,William Manchester, John Updike, Saul Bellow, James Agee, John Jay Chapman, John Muir, Nabovkov, Edwin Hoagland, Willam Gass, Hemingway, Elizabeth Hardwick, S.J.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is actually a required text for my class but I find I'm completely taken with it!Published 8 months ago by Monique
There are some truly excellent essays here... and many of them you may never have heard of.Published 10 months ago by Latasha Crowder
Good collection of short stories. This would also be good for a beginner author who is trying to get ideas on how to create short essays.Published 13 months ago by David
Filled with essays that take your breath away and cause you to consider issues on a level much deeper than you thought existed.Published 15 months ago by E. Bradbury