Unrivaled in the high quality of its selections, this contemporary reader presents 36 diverse and provocative essays drawn from the widely respected Houghton Mifflin/Ticknor & Fields Best American Essays series. A thoughtful introduction by Atwan on the essay and additional reflections on the genre by famous essayists provide students with a solid foundation. Biographical notes and brief questions for discussion or written response accompany each reading, and an Instructor' s Resource Manual offers additional pedagogical tools. The book' s organization reflects the types of writing most often taught in introductory writing courses--personal, informative, and argumentative--and selections within those categories reflect many of the issues that currently enliven campus discussion and debate. Two alternative organizations feature arrangement by 10 traditional rhetorical methods and a topical grouping that links essays to current issues for argument and debate.
The college version of The Best American Essays, Fourth Edition, is a collection of essays for first-year composition courses, loosely arranged by broad aims of discourse, including narrative, informative, and argumentative essays. In addition to its rhetorical organization, the reader also offers flexibility for instructors who prefer a thematic or alphabetical organization. The editor introduces students to various types of essays, followed by commentary from well-known writers on such subjects as "Essayists Must Tell the Truth" and "Essays Are Not Scientific Documents."
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Since the inception of THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS in 1986 as a trade book title, Robert Atwan has been series editor. He has published reviews and essays in a range of periodicals and edited many other literature anthologies. Atwan most recently edited two collections of poetry with a biblical theme: CHAPTERS INTO VERSE by Oxford University Press and DIVINE INSPIRATION by Oxford University Press.
Introduction: Encountering the Essay What Are Essays? Essays and Articles Essays and Fiction Essays and Memoir The Five-Paragraph Essay Can a Computer Evaluate an Essay? The Essay and Risk The Contemporary American Essay: A Diversity of Forms and Voices The Essay and Public Events The Essay in the Twenty-first Century Prologue: Essayists on the Essay Justin Kaplan, What Is an Essay? Jamaica Kincaid, Resisting Definitions Alan Lightman, The Ideal Essay Ian Frazier, The Essay as Object Ian Frazier, The Essay as Action Annie Dillard, Essays and the Real World Joseph Epstein, No Standard Essay Susan Sontag, The Essay's Diversity Joyce Carol Oats, The Memorable Essay Justin Kaplan, The Author's Gumption Cynthia Ozick, Essays and the Imagination Cynthia Ozick, Essays Versus Articles Annie Dillard, Essays Versus Stories Annie Dillard, Essays Versus Poems Edward Hoagland, Essays Are Not Scientific Documents Susan Sontag, The Essayist's Defensiveness Joseph Epstein, On Being an Essayist Geoffrey Wolff, Essayists Must Tell the Truth Susan Sontag, The Essayist's Voice Tracy Kidder, The Demands of the First Person Singular Geoffrey Wolff, The "Who Cares?" Factor Stephen Jay Gould, What "Confessional Writing" Must Do Edward Hoagland, How the Essayist Acquires Authority Joseph Epstein, The Conversational Style Kathleen Norris, The Essay as Dialogue Tracy Kidder, The Attractions of Autobiography Elizabeth Hardwick, The Essayist's Audience Susan Sontag, Essays Start Out in Magazines Gay Talese, On Certain Magazine Interviews Gay Talese, Listening to People Think Elizabeth Hardwick, On the Subjects of Essays Annie Dillard, The Essay's Unlimited Possibilities 1. The Personal Voice: Identity, Diversity, Self-Discovery Anwar F. Accawi, The Telephone "When I was growing up in Magdaluna, a small Lebanese village in the terraced, rocky mountains east of Sidon, time didn't mean much to anybody, except maybe to those who were dying, or those waiting to appear in court because they had tampered with the boundary markers on their land." Marcia Aldrich, Hair "In maturity, I'm incapable of assuming a coherent or consistent philosophy. I have wayward hair: it's always becoming something else." Judith Ortiz Cofer, Silent Dancing "The men drank Palo Viejo rum, and some of the younger ones got weepy. The first time I saw a grown man cry was at a Year's Eve party: he had been reminded of his mother by the smells in the kitchen." Edwidge Danticat, Westbury Court "Though there was graffiti on most of the walls of Westbury Court, and hills of trash piled up outside, and though the elevator wasn't always there when we opened the door to step inside and the heat and hot water weren't always on, I never dreamed of leaving Westbury Court until the year of the fire." Henry Louis Gates, Jr., In the Kitchen "Everybody I knew as a child wanted to have good hair. You could be as ugly as homemade sin dipped in misery and still be thought attractive if you had good hair." Lucy Grealy, Mirrorings "I once thought that truth was eternal, that when you understood something it was with you forever. I know now that this isn't so, that most truths are inherently unretainable, that we have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things." Yusef Komunyakaa The Blue Machinery of Summer "Did education mean moving from one class to the next? My grandmothers told me again and again that one could scale a mountain with a good education. But could I still talk to them, to my parents, my siblings? I would try to live in two worlds--at the very least. That was now my task." Rebecca McClanahan Book Marks "What terrified me that late summer day was the sudden greenness of the trees, the way their beauty insinuated itself into my vision--peripherally at first, vaguely, and without my consent. I blinked to stop what felt like tears, which I hadn't tasted for so long I'd forgotten that they were made of salt, that they were something my body was producing on its own, long after I thought I had shut down. O.K., I said to the steering wheel, the padded dashboard, the pines. If I can think of five reasons not to die, I won't." John McPhee, Silk Parachute "It has been alleged that when I was in college she heard that I had stayed up all night playing poker and wrote me a letter that used the word 'shame' forty-two times. I do not recall this." Danielle Ofri, Merced "How could a young woman whom we had presumably cured, who had been so alive and healthy three days ago, be brain dead now?" Scott Russell Sanders, The Inheritance of Tools "The tools in my workbench are a double inheritance, for each hammer and level and saw is wrapped in a cloud of knowing." Amy Tan, Mother Tongue "Language is the tool of my trade. And I use them all--all the Englishes I grew up with." 2. The Attentive Mind: Observation, Reflection, Insight Rudolph Chelminski, Turning Point "A week before his twenty-sixth birthday, the nimble Petit clandestinely strung a cable between the not-yet-completed Twin Towers, already dominating Manhattan's skyline, and for the better part of an hour walked back and forth over the void, demonstrating his astonishing obsession to one hundred thousand or so wide-eyed gawkers gathered so far below." Annie Dillard, The Stunt Pilot "Nothing on earth is more gladdening than knowing we must roll up our sleeves and move back the boundaries of the humanly possible once more." Gretel Ehlrich, Spring "Last spring at this time I was coming out of a bout of pneumonia. I went to bed on January first and didn't get up until the end of February. Winter was a cocoon in which my gagging, basso cough shook the dark figures at the end of my bed." Anne Fadiman Mail "In October of 1998 I finally gave in and signed up for email. I had resisted for a long time. My husband and I were proud of our retrograde status. Not only did we lack a modem, but we didn't have a car, a microwave, a Cuisinart, an electric can opener, a cellular phone, a CD player, or cable television." Ian Frazier, A Lovely Sort of Lower Purpose "What are you doing? The question pursues me still. When I go fishing and catch no fish, the idea that it's fun simply to be out on the river consoles me for not one second. I must catch fish; and if I do, I must catch more and bigger fish." Edward Hoagland, Heaven and Nature "People with sunny natures do seem to live longer than people who are nervous wrecks; yet mankind didn't evolve out of the animal kingdom by being unduly sunny-minded." Ann Hodgman, No Wonder They Call Me a Bitch "I've always wondered about dog food. Is a Gaines-burger really like a hamburger?" Barry Lopez, The Stone Horse "I waited until I held his eye. I assured him I would not tell anyone else how to get there. He looked at me with stoical despair, like a man who has been robbed twice, whose belief in human beings was offered without conviction." Joyce Carol Oates, They All Just Went Away "As a woman and a writer, I have long wondered at the wellsprings of female masochism. Or what, in despair of a more subtle, less reductive phrase, we can call the congeries of predilections toward self-hurt, self-erasure, self-repudiation in women." Joe Queenan, Matriculation Fixation "Once my children leave the house, I will never again have to participate in a mind-numbing discussion about where my children or my friends' children or my neighbors' children are going to college, and why. On this subject I am completely tapped out." Gay Talese, Ali in Havana "The road to Fidel Castro's Palace of the Revolution leads through a memory lane of old American automobiles chugging along at about twenty-five miles an hour--springless, pre-embargo Ford coupes and Plymouth sedans, DeSotos and LaSalles, Nashes and Studebakers, and various vehicular collages created out of Cadillac grilles and Oldsmobile and axels and Buick fenders patched with pieces of oil-drum metal and powered by engines interlinked with kitchen utensils and pre-Batista lawn mowers and other gadgets that have elevated the craft of tinkering in Cuba to the status of high art." John Updike, The Disposable Rocket "Inhabiting a male body is much like having a bank account; as long as it's healthy, you don't think much about it. Compared to the female body, it is a low-maintenance proposition...." 3. The Public Sphere: Advocacy, Argument, Controversy Wendell Berry, In Distrust of Movements "People in movements too readily learn to deny to others the rights and privileges they demand for themselves. They too easily become unable to mean their own language, as when a 'peace movement' becomes violent." Frank Conroy, Think About It "Education doesn't end until life ends, because you never know when you're going to understand something you hadn't understood before." Alan M. Dershowitz, Shouting Fire! "Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's classic example of unprotected speech--falsely shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theater--has been invoked so often, by so many people, in such diverse contexts, that it has become part of our national folk language." Debra Dickerson, Who Shot Johnny? "We rarely wonder about or discuss the brother who shot him because we already know everything about him. When the call came, my first thought was the same one I'd had when I'd heard about Rosa Parks's beating: A brother did it." David Halberstam, Who We Are "Of the many results of the end of the Cold War--the most amazing surge in the American economy, the rise of nationalism and tribalism in certain parts of the world--the most surprising and distressing was the trivialization of the American political agenda." Vicki Hearne, What's Wrong with Animal Rights "Animal-rights publications are illustrated largely with photographs of two kinds of animals--'Helpless Fluff' and 'Agonized Fluff,' the two conditions in which some people seem to prefer their animals, because any other version of an animal is too complicated for propaganda." Jamaica Kincaid, On Seeing England for the First Time "When my teacher had pinned this map up on the blackboard, she said, 'This is England'--and she said it with authority, seriousness, and adoration, and we all sat up. It was as if she had said, 'This is Jerusalem, the place you will go when you die but only if you have been good.'" Ashraf Rushdy, Exquisite Corpse "The body of Emmett Till--'his head...swollen and bashed in, his mouth twisted and broken'--became a kind of icon. Emmett Till showed the world exactly what white supremacy looked like." Peter Singer, The Singer Solution to World Poverty "In the world as it is now, I can see no escape from the conclusion that each one of us with wealth surplus to his or her essential needs should be giving most of it to help people suffering poverty from so dire as to be life-threatening. That's right: I'm saying that you shouldn't buy that new car, take that cruise, redecorate the house, or get that pricey new suit. After all, a thousand-dollar suit could save five children's lives." Shelby Steele, On Being Black and Middle Class "Black though I may be, it is impossible for me to sit in my single-family house with two cars in the driveway and a swing set in the backyard and not see the role class has played in my life." Joy Williams, The Killing Game "To kill is to put to death, extinguish, nullify, cancel, destroy. But from the hunter's point of view, it's just a tiny part of the experience." Garry Wills, The Dramaturgy of Death "Having given up on most of the previous justifications for the death penalty, we cling to a mere vestige of the practice, relying most urgently on one of the least defensible defenses of it." Alternative Arrangements Rhetorical Modes Some Literary and Journalistic Techniques Contemporary Issues Index of Authors