Synopses & Reviews
It's hard to imagine that it was just a year ago that we were finishing up last year's Best American Nonrequired Reading! Then again, doing last year's collection last year, as opposed to this year, seems to have been the right way to go. We took a gamble on that decision, and it paid off.
Like last year, our Best American mailbag is full of letters, written in crayon and blood and begging to be answered. Let us begin.
What is this collection again? You told me last year, but I spaced. -- Dominique, Santa Monica, CA Thank you for your question, Dominique, which I am happy to answer in much the same fashion as I did last year, when you first asked. The purpose of this book is to collect good work of any kind -- fiction, humor, essays, comics, journalism -- in one place, for the English-reading consumer. The first edition of the book could also be used as a low-frequency ham radio, but this feature has been discontinued.
Who are these "826 All-Stars" who are credited with co-editing this book? -- Dan and Becky, Newport, RI The 826 All-Stars is a moniker for a student committee, stalwart and true, that sifts through virtually everything published in the United States in a given year and from this morass -- did we say morass? We meant to say bounty -- finds the best twenty-five or so writings that work together and don't include references to bestiality or John Ashcroft or both. The student committee goes by these names: Alexei Wajchman, Kevin Feeney, Alison Cagle, Jeremy Ashkenas, Juliet Linderman, Adrienne Mahar, Antal Polony, Francesca Root-Dodson, Sabrina Ramos, and Jennifer Florin. They are all high school students from the San Franciso Bay area.
What sorts of things were eligible? Work from any periodicals at all? -- Dorsetta Cable, Pacifica, CA It's nice to hear from you, Dorsetta. The answer to your question is yes, as long as these periodicals are American and not about stereos of zombies or poetry. We always make a very concerted effort to include work from lesser-known magazines and quarterlies and Web sites, and we did find some great things in some small-circulation publications -- we did a better job of including such work this year than ever before. You should be very proud of your daughter.
Why is Viggo Mortensen writing an introduction to this book? You would think he would have better things to do. Was this part of some kind of work-release program or what? -- Lucy Hackett, Medfield, MA This collection's mission, if there is one -- and there isn't -- is to bring new writing to new audiences. We hope that people will pick up this book after seeing the name or names of a few writers they like and then become exposed to other good people who write. Viggo has been associated with 826 Valencia for some time, having helped us with fund-raising and such. He is also a noted poet and artist, and thus the perfect ambassador for this collection, bringing, we hope, new people to some great contemporary writing. We can only hope that this introduction-writing business takes off for him, given how lucrative it is and how much glory attends it.
"The book is a zesty bouillabaisse of nonrequired reading that should be required..." Publishers Weekly
Dave Eggers, with the help of a cadre of Bay Area writing students, has again assembled an eclectic collection of fiction, nonfiction, humor, journalism, and alternative comics. Sources range from "hip secrets as well as former secrets such as The Onion and McSweeney's ...Even the mainstream magazines get a share, from lowbrow to highbrow and quite a bit in between" (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
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 pieces from hundreds 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.
Dave Eggers, who edits The Best American Nonrequired Reading annually, has once again chosen the best and least-expected contemporary fiction, nonfiction, satire, investigative reporting, alternative comics, and more from publications large, small, and on-line -- Zoetrope, Tin House, the Atlantic Monthly, Bomb, SPX, the New York Times, Texas Monthly, GQ, Iowa Review, Esquire, and others. Read on for "some of the best literature you haven't been reading . . . and it's fantastic. All of it" (St. Petersburg Times).
About the Author
Dave Eggers is the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, You Shall Know Our Velocity!, and How We Are Hungry, and he is the editor of McSweeney's. He is the founder of 826 Valencia, a San Francisco writing lab for young people.Viggo Mortensen is a and#64257;lm actor and artist/poet who has published and#64257;ve books of art and photography, including Recent Forgeries, SignLanguage, and Miyelo.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Dave Eggers ?ö xi
Introduction by Viggo Mortensen ?ö xxv
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. half of a yellow sun ?ö 1 from Zoetrope: All-Story
Daniel Alarc¨®n. city of clowns ?ö 18 from The New Yorker
David Benioff. zoanthropy ?ö 47 from Tin House
Christopher Buckley. we have a pope! ?ö 69 from Atlantic Monthly
Ben Ehrenreich. what you eat ?ö 96 from Bomb
Eve Englezos and Joshua Moutray. vickie, lacey, ray, sharon, corey, derek, carol, and dave ?ö 107 from SPX
Jon Gertner. the futile pursuit of happiness ?ö 116 from New York Times
Michael Hall. running for his life ?ö 129 from Texas Monthly
Sammy Harkham. poor sailor ?ö 144 from Kramer?Zs Ergot Four
John Haskell. good world ?ö 179 from Blind Spot
Kaui Hart Hemmings. the minor wars ?ö 190 from Story Quarterly
Thom Jones. night train ?ö 207 from Doubletake
Tom Kealey. bones ?ö 222 from Prairie Schooner
Robert Kelly. how they took my body apart and made another me ?ö 245 from Conjunctions
David Mamet. secret names ?ö 254 from Threepenny Review
Gina Ochsner. hidden lives of lakes ?ö 262 from Mid-American Review
Lance Olsen. sixteen jackies ?ö 273 from New Letters
Julie Orringer. the smoothest way is full of stones ?ö 283 from Zoetrope: All-Story
Michael Paterniti. the fifteen-year layover ?ö 311 from GQ
Paula W. Peterson. big brother ?ö 327 from Iowa Review
Cheryl Printup. the promise of something ?ö 341 from Zyzzyva
David Sedaris. full house ?ö 350 from Esquire
Michelle Tea. transmissions from camp trans ?ö 359 from Believer
Contributors?Z Notes ?ö 399 Notable Nonrequired Reading of 2003 ?ö 405