Synopses & Reviews
This lively latest volume of The Best American Nonrequired Reading boasts the best in fiction, nonfiction, alternative comics, screenplays, blogs, and anything else, compiled by Dave Eggers and students from his San Francisco writing center. Contributors include Alison Bechdel, Stephen Colbert, Scott Carrier, Lee Klein, Matt Klam, and others.
This brilliant collection highlights a bold mix of fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, television writing, and more alternative comics than ever. Compiled by Dave Eggers and students from his San Francisco writing center, contributors include Judy Budnitz, The Onion, The Daily Show, This American Life, and George Packer.
About the Author
Dave Eggers is the author of four books, including How We Are Hungry
and What Is the What
. He is the editor of McSweeney's
and the founder of 826 Valencia, a San Francisco writing lab for young people.
Sufjan Stevens is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist known for his critically acclaimed albums, including Greetings from Michigan, Seven Swans, and Illinois, all from the Asthmatic Kitty label he founded with his stepfather.
Table of Contents
Introduction by Sufjan Stevens xi Q & A by Dave Eggers xix
Best American Names for Horses Expected to Have Undistinguished Careers 3 from Yankee Pot Roast, written by Mike Richardson-Bryan
Best American Beginnings of Ten Stories about Ponies 4 from Monkey Bicycle, written by Wendy Molyneux
Best American First Sentences of Novels Published in 2006 6
Best American New Words of 2006 8 from The Concise Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, new edition
Best American New Band Names 11
Best American Six-Word Memoirs 12 from Smith
Best American Personals from Around the World 14 from Tin House
Best American Article Titles from the Best American Trade Magazines 17
Best American Creationist Explanations for the World's Natural Wonders 21 from Answers in Genesis
Best American New Animal Plagues 23 from Earthweek, written by Steve Newman
Best American Failed Television Pilots 25 from Channel 101
Best American Names of Television Programs Taken to Their Logical Conclusions 28 from Opium, written by Joe O'Neill
Best American Police Blotter Items 29 from Looptard
Jonathan Ames. Middle-American Gothic 33 from Spin
Alison Bechdel. A Happy Death 41 from Fun Home
D. Winston Brown. Ghost Children 70 from Creative Nonfiction
Scott Carrier. Rock the Junta 84 from Mother Jones
Joshua Clark. American 99 from New Orleans Review
Edge Foundation. What Is Your Dangerous Idea? 107
Jennifer Egan. Selling the General 131 from Five Chapters
Stephen Elliott. Where I Slept 153 from Tin House
Kevin A. González. Lotería 162 from Indiana Review
Miranda July. How to Tell Stories to Children 187 from Zoetrope: All-Story
Matthew Klam. Adina, Astrid, Chipewee, Jasmine 204 from The New Yorker
Lee Klein. All Aboard the Bloated Boat: Arguments in Favor of Barry Bonds 227 from Barrelhouse
Nam Le. Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice 237 from Zoetrope: All-Story
Jen Marlowe, Aisha Bain, and Adam Shapiro. Darfur Diaries 259
David J. Morris. The Big Suck: Notes from the Jarhead Underground 274 from The Virginia Quarterly Review
Conan O'Brien. Stuyvesant High School Commencement Speech 299
Mattox Roesch. Humpies 305 from Agni Online
Patrick Somerville. So Long, Anyway 317 from Epoch
Joy Williams. Literature Unnatured 330 from American Short Fiction
Contributors' Notes 341 The Best American Nonrequired Reading Committee 345 Notable Nonrequired Reading of 2006 349
From Q & A by Dave Eggers
A group of senators and assemblypersons were pressing The Best American Nonrequired Reading on a number of questions relating to the collection, so we decided to kill that stone in the shape of an introduction in the shape of a Q & A.
Who are they, the Nonrequired committee's members who decide on things in this collection?
They are high school students from all over the San Francisco Bay Area.
Are they touched by some kind of divine light?
The question is a good one. There is rampant speculation on the subject.
Are they all great-looking and charming and well dressed?
Yes. All of them, and especially Felicia Wong, who can even make her own clothes. The process by which The Best American Nonrequired Reading is put together is not scientific. It is whatever one would consider the opposite of scientific.
Well, no, it's not creationist either. The point is that we are probably a bit less top-to-bottom thorough than, say, the Army Corps of Engineers. Well, actually, scratch that. We are probably about exactly as thorough as the Army Corps of Engineers, in that we are intermittently thorough.
What is your opinion and the committee's opinion of the state of short stories and small magazines and other periodicals?
This is a good time. It really is.
Not all of us Americans appreciate the fact that we have about 150 very good quarterlies in this country. Every state seems to have a very good quarterly, and about a hundred colleges have very good quarterlies -- from the KenyonReview to the University of Illinois's Ninth Letter. So by our estimate there are about 150 very good quarterlies in this country. Maybe more. Now, the thing we don't always appreciate here in America is that elsewhere in the world there are few to no quarterlies.
How does it feel to select something for the collection that you found in an unlikely place?
It feels so good. This year, for example, at the last moment we found Humpies by Mattox Roesch. It was published by Agni Online, and we all loved it, and here it is, ideally able to reach a new audience. We all took pleasure in finding that one; the mandate of the committee is to find the offbeat and the lesser-known and bring these pieces to our readers, most of whom have great skin and bad eyes.