9780618043705

The Best American Essays of the Century

ISBN 10: 0618043705 / 0-618-04370-5
ISBN 13: 9780618043705
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 2000
Binding: Hardcover
Editorial Reviews:
Synopsis:

This singular collection is nothing less than a political, spiritual, and intensely personal record of America's tumultuous modern age by our foremost critics, commentators, activists, and artists. In her introduction to this volume, Joyce Carol Oates describes her project as "a search for the expression of personal experience within the historical, the individual talent within the tradition." Along with Robert Atwan, who has overseen the acclaimed BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS series since its inception in 1986, Oates has chosen a list of works that are both intimate and important, essays that take on subjects of profound and universal significance while retaining the power and spirit of a personal address.
This collection honors some of the twentieth century's best-known and best-loved writers on a breathtaking variety of topics. In a journalistic mode, Ernest Hemingway covers the bullfights in Pamplona, H. L. Mencken reacts to the Scopes trial, and Michael Herr dodges bullets in a helicopter over Vietnam. Nowhere is the intersection of our personal and political histories more meaningful than when the subject is Americas enduring legacy of racial strife, as shown by Richard Wrights "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," James Baldwins "Notes of a Native Son," Zora Neale Hurstons "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," and others. The wonders and horrors of science, nature, and the cosmos are explored with eloquence, bravery, and beauty when Lewis Thomas writes about "The Lives of a Cell," Rachel Carson mulls "The Marginal World," and Stephen Jay Gould preaches evolution and baseball in "The Creation Myths of Cooperstown."
Taken together, these essays fit, in the words of Joyce Carol Oates, "into a kind of mobile mosaic suggest[ing] where we've come from, and who we are, and where we are going."
Mark Twain W.E.B. Du Bois Henry Adams John Muir William James Randolph Bourne John Jay Chapman Jane Addams T. S. Eliot Ernest Hemingway H. L. Mencken Zora Neale Hurston Edmund Wilson Gertrude Stein F. Scott Fitzgerald James Thurber Richard Wright James Agee Robert Frost E. B. White S. J. Perelman Langston Hughes Katherine Anne Porter Mary McCarthy Rachel Carson James Baldwin Loren Eiseley Eudora Welty Donald Hall Martin Luther King, Jr. Tom Wolfe Susan Sontag Vladimir Nabokov N. Scott Momaday Elizabeth Hardwick Michael Herr Maya Angelou Lewis Thomas John McPhee William H. Gass Maxine Hong Kingston Alice Walker Adrienne Rich Joan Didion Richard Rodriguez Gretel Ehrlich Annie Dillard Cynthia Ozick William Manchester Edward Hoagland Stephen Jay Gould Gerald Early John Updike Joyce Carol Oates Saul Bellow


Review:

"An eclectic anthology...comprising a generous selection of less known but deserving work from mostly big-name writers....With so few surprises and most of the selections coming from the usual suspects, the overall effect is underwhelming. Above average, but definitely not the 'Best.'"

Kirkus, 07/15/2000

Review:

"...[A]ll the essays transcend fashion and speak just as eloquently to us today as they did when they were first published."

Megan Harlan, Entertainment Weekly, 09/08/2000

 

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