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The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007 Paperback – October 10, 2007
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"[T]he most grown-up young adult fiction excerpts ever compiled." --Allegra Muzzillo, Black Book
About the Author
DAVE EGGERS is the editor of McSweeney’s and a cofounder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth, located in seven cities across the United States. He is the author of four books, including What Is the What and How We Are Hungry.
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Top customer reviews
This is music to the ears those of us with warped senses of humor.
San Francisco youth culture can be somewhat nihilistic, and a number of the selections embrace themes of death and failed institutions, and offer a pessimistic outlook on life. This viewpoint is explicitly described in the first long piece in the book, Jonathan Ames' "American Gothic", an article about goth culture, but it is prevalent in a good number of other selections. Scott Carrier's "Rock the Junta", an article about the most popular rock band in the authoritarian country of Myanmar, has the underlying assumption that rock and roll music can change the world and bring about revolution, a viewpoint that is more popular among youths than history professors. There is even an article about Barry Bonds, Lee Klein's "All Aboard the Bloated Boat", that favorably compares Bonds and other steroid-ingesting athletes to musicians like Jimi Hendrix who took drugs and then produced classics of rock music. This article didn't at all change my opinion of Bonds, but it did make it clear again why Bonds finished his career in front of adoring fans in the city of San Francisco, which is much more tolerant of drug experimentation than other major league baseball cities.
There are several very enjoyable pieces in this book, starting with Sufjan Stevens' introduction, in which he describes how he transitioned from being a non-reading third grader in a Waldorf school, with hippie-esque parents, to the harsh reality of a traditional American public school, where (thanks to a teacher and American pop culture) he was able to catch up in his reading in a hurry.
Other pieces I enjoyed include:
-- The Edge Foundation's "What is Your Dangerous Idea", which asked that question of some distinguished scientists, and then collected their responses; some of them are quite thoughtful and provocative.
-- Jennifer Egan's "Selling the General", which, although a bit fantastical, nevertheless makes some very telling observations about our celebrity-laden culture.
-- Conan O'Brien's "Stuyvesant High School Commencement Speech", which wraps some pretty common life advice in humor and poignancy, thus engaging and moving the listener/reader.
-- Mike Richardson-Bryan's "Best American Names of Horses Expected to Have Undistinguished Careers", which is the funniest (albeit shortest) piece in the book.
But all in all, this volume is likely to be most appreciated by younger readers, especially those who call the Bay Area home.
Goth is dying, most bands are industrial, an informant tells Jonathan Ames in his piece entitled 'Middle-American Gothic'. The graphic story by Alison Bechdel concerning a father's intentional or accidental death is engrossing. D. Winston Brown, in 'Ghost Children', opines that time can transform violence.
Burma, the size of Texas, called Myanmar, is a place of absolute government control. Scott Carrier, 'Rock the Junta', claims he lied on his visa application to get into the country. Incipient consumerism, a condition he has encountered in other parts of the world, confronts him as he goes in quest of political truths. Foucault described the effects of surveillance. The Burmese poeple, it is asserted, suffer from surveillance.
In the main, women are empathizers and men are synthesizers, (from 'What is Your Dangerous Idea?'). Query--will human beings understand the universe, ever? Reasonably considered, scientific knowledge may be pursued only for its practical applications. In 1900 most inventions involved physical reality. In 2005 they revolve upon virtual entertainment. Today a technological elite owns the country's intellectual property.
Stephen Elliott, 'Where I Slept', had been a known drug user and eighth grade drinker. At least two characters in this collection wear sleeping masks. In 'How to Tell Stories to Children' two of the characters determine that they have forty minutes before the perishables perish and so they have time for tea.
Lee Klein, in 'All Aboard the Bloated Boat' compares Barry Bonds to Jimi Hendrix. Maybe Bonds in a scapegoat. An NGO, Darfur, a mission to make a record of the evolving crisis reveals that the emptiness of the region is disconcerting. Airplanes are referred to Antonovs, (Russian). The marauders are the Janjaweed.
The jarhead underground is a tale of Marines. In 2006 there are shifts in the action. In Iraq information is tribal. Control of Fallujah is turned over to an Iraqi brigade. Then the Marines are called upon to deal with the insurgents.
The collection is a joy. Basically it is a clutch of the products of youngish, cospmopolitan, emerging writers.
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Ok. This is the first BANR I've actually read (2007 version), but I'm so glad I bought it.Read more