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The Best American Essays 1999 (1999)

av Edward Hoagland (Redaktör), Robert Atwan (Redaktör)

Andra författare: André Aciman (Bidragsgivare), Charles Bowden (Bidragsgivare), Franklin Burroughs (Bidragsgivare), Michael W. Cox (Bidragsgivare), Joan Didion (Bidragsgivare)20 till, Annie Dillard (Bidragsgivare), Brian Doyle (Bidragsgivare), Ian Frazier (Bidragsgivare), Dagoberto Gilb (Bidragsgivare), Mary Gordon (Bidragsgivare), Patricia Hampl (Bidragsgivare), Barbara Hurd (Bidragsgivare), John Lahr (Bidragsgivare), Hilary Masters (Bidragsgivare), John McNeel (Bidragsgivare), Ben Metcalf (Bidragsgivare), Arthur Miller (Bidragsgivare), Joyce Carol Oates (Bidragsgivare), Cynthia Ozick (Bidragsgivare), David Quammen (Bidragsgivare), Daisy Eunyoung Rhau (Bidragsgivare), Scott Russell Sanders (Bidragsgivare), Mark Slouka (Bidragsgivare), Touré (Bidragsgivare), George W. S. Trow (Bidragsgivare)

Serier: The Best American Essays (1999), Best American (1999)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1681120,576 (3.83)3
This year's wonderfully diverse collection, which features such respected writers as Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Ian Frazier, Mary Gordon, and Arthur Miller. These essays range widely across the American landscape -- from a California monastery to a Manhattan apartment -- and along the way introduce us to a fine array of talented new voices. Called by John Updike "the best essayist of my generation," Hoagland has assembled a powerful volume that vividly showcases the art and craft of the contemporary essay. IN SEARCH OF PROUST by Andre Aciman, TORCH SONG by Charles Bowden, COMPRESSION WOOD by Franklin Burroughs, VISITOR by Michael W. Cox, LAST WORDS by Joan Didion, FOR THE TIME BEING by Annie Dillard, THE METEORITES by Brian Doyle, A LOVELY SORT OF LOWER PURPOSE by Ian Frazier, VICTORIA by Dagoberto Gilb, STILL LIFE by Mary Gordon, A WEEK IN THE WORD by Patricia Hampl, THE COUNTRY BELOW by Barbara Hurd, THE LION AND ME by John Lahr, MAKING IT UP by Hilary Masters, ON THE FEDALA ROAD by John McNeel, AMERICAN HEARTWORM by Ben Metcalf, BEFORE AIR CONDITIONING by Arthur Miller, AFTER AMNESIA by Joyce Carol Oates, THE IMPIOUS IMPATIENCE OF JOB by Cynthia Ozick, PLANET OF WEEDS by David Quammen, ON SILENCE by Daisy Eunyoung Rhau, BEAUTY by Scott Russell Sanders, HITLER'S COUCH by Mark Slouka, WHAT'S INSIDE YOU, BROTHER? by Toure, FOLDING THE TIMES by W. S. Trow.… (mer)

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» Se även 3 omnämnanden

Once in a while we need to be reminded why we read and write for Cybersmurf. It’s not just for the screen shots of Pokénude and sex advice from Nina Hartley. It’s because everything else sux! But I’m reviewing this volume of essays published by Houghton Mifflin (devil spawn!) because in a few months its going to be on the remainder table at your local indie, and I thought I’d save you the trouble of reading the table of contents.

First of all, there’s no need to panic. Nothing much has changed in mainstream writing while you were drunk last year. It’s still as if James Joyce had never lived and written. So this volume is about what you’d expect: a few truly thoughtful pieces mixed in with a lot of waterlogged detritus floating downstream from the American Dream. That’s right, put down the pipe, and take note: I did indeed say that there are a couple jewels in this tree corpse.

We must keep our priorities, however, and chew with the mandibles of proper Cybersmurf style. In other words, here is what sux about this collection of “best” essays. First of all, there’s not one essay by Thomas R. Frank, and the only piece from Tom’s zine, The Baffler, is a smucked-up piece of tokenism. The editor of the 1999 Best, Edward Hoagland, apparently wanted something more Michael Moore-ish (you know, toke-head, that dorky-stocky Roger and Me guy), so from The Baffler he accepted a humor piece, “American Heartworm,” by Ben Metcalf. Frank and Company being known for their thematic approach to magazine publishing, this piece probably jigged right in with the issue theme, but here it just seems drole, funny in a white-trash biting kind of way.

The other worst thing about this collection is the continuing spread of “memorism.” I’ve nothing against memoir, per se, except when it’s written by somebody with nothing to say. Arthur Miller, sadly, is the shining star of that faux pas in this volume. But then his three-pager, “Before Air Conditioning,” is from The New Yorker, so wha’dya’spect? But Mr. Miller might have walked a couple blocks — or maybe taken a cab and been driven by — and seen the people who still live in the “BAC”-age. I guess he’s never heard a bum begging for a quarter for air conditioning…

If I were a tree, this creeping memoirism thing would really scare the pulp out of me. And considering this volume contains a memoir (in suitably pseudo-intellectual finery) by Joyce Carol Oates, the post-Cartesian anti-Imagination herself, you might want to pass, or piss, on this volume entirely. It was a faith-shaking blow to this writer’s stamina to note that this essay was originally published in Granta. In a forthcoming essay I’ll talk about creeping memoirism and late capitalism, but for now I need only point to most of the rest of Best 99 to show that it is creeping, at an alarming rate, into the practice of young writers.

Why the hell teach memoir writing to kids who haven’t had a life yet is beyond me, but maybe its all part of this “cognitive process” conspiracy taking place in college comp classes. Yeah, that must be it, the idea that, for some reason, “expressing oneself” is somehow “the thing” to do. And that the way to express yourself is by digging through memories of childhood and adolescence that are probably still too painful to be put in any kind of perspective. Whatever. Regular readers of this column know that I’m a heinous butt-head about the creative apprenticeship thing, but for once I’m not picking on small press writers and publishers. Best o’ 99 is from big bux-paying publications, like Harper’s and The Washington Post Magazine. The shades of difference between the source magazines have to be measured in nano-angstroms. (The selection from The Baffler proves my point.)

So what’s so cool about this book to make it worth a couple bux on the remains of the day table, and a thousand words in Cybersmurf? 25 soul-searching, smart pages by Annie Dillard and Patricia Hampl. The “American Dream,” writes Hampl, “our natural habitat,” “inflates the soul. Fills it, rather than fulfills it.” Hampl might go a little too far, and be a little high class white, with her deflation of her great grandfather’s “(who was a Modernist)” advice to “only connect.” “Order is not our thing,” great gramps added, and Hampl takes that old debate to a new level. She uses the concept of worship as a metaphor for living in the world, as a way of being. It’s an old idea, but one not terribly popular in disembodied Euro-America. And I like her definition of worship: “It is the practice of the fiercest possible attention.”

I’ve always thought that Dillard’s writing– the little I’ve read — picked itself up by the bootstraps at the same time as luxuriating in the mud. Her piece herein, “For the Time Being,” reminds us that “Once the holy sparks are released, evil, having lost its life-giving core, will cease to exist.” I’m confident I know nothing about good and evil, but the Torah that Dillard is quoting might well. What I do know is that we have to keep on letting the sparks fly. Fierce sparks of attention. ( )
  funkendub | Sep 30, 2010 |
inga recensioner | lägg till en recension

» Lägg till fler författare

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Hoagland, EdwardRedaktörprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Atwan, RobertRedaktörhuvudförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Aciman, AndréBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Bowden, CharlesBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Burroughs, FranklinBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Cox, Michael W.Bidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Didion, JoanBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Dillard, AnnieBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Doyle, BrianBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Frazier, IanBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Gilb, DagobertoBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Gordon, MaryBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Hampl, PatriciaBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Hurd, BarbaraBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Lahr, JohnBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Masters, HilaryBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
McNeel, JohnBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Metcalf, BenBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Miller, ArthurBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Oates, Joyce CarolBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Ozick, CynthiaBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Quammen, DavidBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Rhau, Daisy EunyoungBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Sanders, Scott RussellBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Slouka, MarkBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
TouréBidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat
Trow, George W. S.Bidragsgivaremedförfattarealla utgåvorbekräftat

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This year's wonderfully diverse collection, which features such respected writers as Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Ian Frazier, Mary Gordon, and Arthur Miller. These essays range widely across the American landscape -- from a California monastery to a Manhattan apartment -- and along the way introduce us to a fine array of talented new voices. Called by John Updike "the best essayist of my generation," Hoagland has assembled a powerful volume that vividly showcases the art and craft of the contemporary essay. IN SEARCH OF PROUST by Andre Aciman, TORCH SONG by Charles Bowden, COMPRESSION WOOD by Franklin Burroughs, VISITOR by Michael W. Cox, LAST WORDS by Joan Didion, FOR THE TIME BEING by Annie Dillard, THE METEORITES by Brian Doyle, A LOVELY SORT OF LOWER PURPOSE by Ian Frazier, VICTORIA by Dagoberto Gilb, STILL LIFE by Mary Gordon, A WEEK IN THE WORD by Patricia Hampl, THE COUNTRY BELOW by Barbara Hurd, THE LION AND ME by John Lahr, MAKING IT UP by Hilary Masters, ON THE FEDALA ROAD by John McNeel, AMERICAN HEARTWORM by Ben Metcalf, BEFORE AIR CONDITIONING by Arthur Miller, AFTER AMNESIA by Joyce Carol Oates, THE IMPIOUS IMPATIENCE OF JOB by Cynthia Ozick, PLANET OF WEEDS by David Quammen, ON SILENCE by Daisy Eunyoung Rhau, BEAUTY by Scott Russell Sanders, HITLER'S COUCH by Mark Slouka, WHAT'S INSIDE YOU, BROTHER? by Toure, FOLDING THE TIMES by W. S. Trow.

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