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Other titles in the Best American Essays series:
The Best American Essaysby Stephen Jay Gould
Synopses & Reviews
The Best American Essays features a selection of the year's outstanding essays — works of literary achievement that show an awareness of craft and forcefulness of thought. Hundreds of essays are gathered annually from a wide variety of national and regional publications. These essays are then screened, and approximately one hundred are turned over to a distinguished guest editor, who may add a few personal discoveries and who makes the final selections. This year's volume is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Jay Gould, who died in May of this year, soon after he made his final choices and wrote his introduction.
In the introduction Gould writes: "Many commentators have stated — quite correctly in my view — that the twentieth century did not truly begin in 1900 or 1901, by any standard of historical continuity, but rather at the end of World War I, the great shatterer of illusions about progress and human betterment... I suspect that future chroniclers will date the inception of the third millennium from September 11, 2001. Any collector of essays for this fateful year must therefore, up front and first of all, address this issue.
"I was tempted to make a collection solely of 9/11 pieces (so many good ones already, and so many more yet to come)," Gould continues, "but neither decency nor common morality permitted such a course. We simply cannot allow evil madmen to define history in this way. Moreover, the event occurred late enough in the year to preclude the kind of pervasiveness that might summon such a temptation. But 9/11 stories must be here, and you will find some of the first of the best."
Since 1986, The Best American Essays has gathered the best nonfiction writing of the year and established itself as the best-selling anthology of its kind.
Since its inception in 1915, the Best American series has become the premier annual showcase for the country's finest short fiction and nonfiction. For each volume, a series editor reads hundreds of pieces from dozens of periodicals, then selects between fifty and a hundred outstanding works. That selection is pared down to the twenty or so very best pieces by a guest editor who is widely recognized as a leading writer in his or her field. This unique system has helped make the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind.
From The New Yorker to the Missouri Review, from Esquire to the American Scholar, the editors of The Best American Essays have scoured hundreds of the country's best periodicals in search of the most artful and powerful writing around. This thoughtful, provocative collection is the result of their search.
About the Author
Stephan Jay Gould was the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University and the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University. He was the author of classic works on evolution and other scientific topics, among them The Mismeasure of Man, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History, The Panda's Thumb, and Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin. He died in May 2002.
Robert Atwan has edited numerous literary anthologies and written essays for periodicals nationwide.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Robert Atwan viii
Jacques Barzun. The Tenth Muse 1
Rudolph Chelminski. Turning Point 13
Bernard Cooper. Winner Take Nothing 22
Nicholas Delbanco. The Countess of Stanlein Restored 35
Barbara Ehrenreich. Welcome to Cancerland 66
Jonathan Franzen. My Father's Brain 88
Atul Gawande. Final Cut 111
David Halberstam. Who We Are 124
Christopher Hitchens. For Patriot Dreams 137
Sebastian Junger. The Lion in Winter 144
Amy Kolen. Fire 165
Andrew Levy. The Anti-Jefferson 188
Adam Mayblum. The Price We Pay 213
Louis Menand. College: The End of the Golden Age 219
Cullen Murphy. Out of the Ordinary 232
Danielle Ofri. Merced 237
Darryl Pinckney. Busted in New York 253
Richard Price and Anne Hudson-Price. Word on the Street 267
Joe Queenan. Matriculation Fixation 276
John Sack. Inside the Bunker 280
Mario Vargas Llosa. Why Literature? 295
Gore Vidal. The Meaning of Timothy McVeigh 309
Garry Wills. The Dramaturgy of Death 331
Penny Wolfson. Moonrise 344
Biographical Notes 367
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