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Best American History Essays 2007

The twenty-two essays in this powerful collection -- perhaps the most diverse in the entire series -- come from a wide variety of periodicals, ranging from n + 1 and PMS to the New Republic and The New Yorker, and showcase a remarkable range of forms. Read on for narrative -- in first and third person -- opinion, memoir, argument, the essay-review, confession, reportage, eThe twenty-two essays in this powerful collection -- perhaps the most diverse in the entire series -- come from a wide variety of periodicals, ranging from n + 1 and PMS to the New Republic and The New Yorker, and showcase a remarkable range of forms. Read on for narrative -- in first and third person -- opinion, memoir, argument, the essay-review, confession, reportage, even a dispatch from Iraq. The philosopher Peter Singer makes a case for philanthropy; the poet Molly Peacock constructs a mosaic tribute to a little-known but remarkable eighteenth-century woman artist; the novelist Marilynne Robinson explores what has happened to holiness in contemporary Christianity; the essayist Richard Rodriguez wonders if California has anything left to say to America; and the Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson attempts to find common ground with the evangelical community.

In his introduction, David Foster Wallace makes the spirited case that “many of these essays are valuable simply as exhibits of what a first-rate artistic mind can make of particular fact-sets -- whether these involve the 17-kHz ring tones of some kids’ cell phones, the language of movement as parsed by dogs, the near-infinity of ways to experience and describe an earthquake, the existential synecdoche of stagefright, or the revelation that most of what you’ve believed and revered turns out to be self-indulgent crap.”...more

Paperback, 307 pages

Published October 10th 2007 by Mariner Books

Two factors make this year's volume of The Best American Essays different from its predecessors: the death in May of its editor, Harvard paleontologist Gould (The Structure of Evolutionary Theory), and 9/11, the subject of five of the 24 essays. In his foreword, series editor Robert Atwan, editor of numerous literary anthologies (e.g., The Writer's Presence: A Pool of Readings), suggests that while fiction and poetry strive in times of peace, the essay thrives in times of conflict. Gould notes in his introduction that he was tempted to select only articles about 9/11, but to do so would have "allow[ed] evil madmen to define history." Essays for each year's anthology are chosen from hundreds appearing in American publications; then, about 100 are given to the guest editor for the final selection. (Previous editors have included Kathleen Norris, Alan Lightman, and Cynthia Ozick.) This year's candidates, Gould observes, leaned heavily toward confessional writing and personal storytelling. Authors include Jacques Barzun, David Halberstam, Sebastian Junger, Gore Vidal, and Garry Wills. Noteworthy entries include Amy Kolen on the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, John Sack on Holocaust deniers, and Mario Vargas Llosa on the importance of literature to the human condition. Recommended for all libraries. Denise J. Stankovics, Rockville P.L., Vernon, CT
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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