08 November 2009

The Best American Essays 2009

My decision to start my Best American project was made when I read the first essay in The Best American Essays 2009; Sue Allison's short meditation on words - Taking a Reading from Mid-American Review - knocked my socks off.  If this is what I'm missing every year I need to read more.  More, more, more.

This a slim volume - less than 200 pages - and every essay Mary Oliver picked was a gem.  Richard Rodriguez meditates on the desert religions of the Holy Land in The God of the Desert, Gregory Orr relates a harrowing personal episode in Return to Hayneville, and Michael Lewis tells of his family's sojourn in The Mansion: A Subprime Parable.  Kathyrn Miles brings Darwin's canine companion, Dolly, to life in Dog is Our Copilot and Jill McCorkle observes the uses of profanity in Cuss Time.

Most enjoyable was John Updike's essay The Writer in Winter, almost heart-breaking in the honesty of an aging writer's essay:
With ominous frequency, I can't think of the right word.  I know there is a word; I can visualize the exact shape it occupies in the jigsaw puzzle of the English language.  But the word itself, with its precise edges and unique tint of meaning, hangs on the misty rim of consciousness (pp 173-174).

I want more.

Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 13/17

1 comment:

  1. The Best American anthologies are all terrific. Glad you enjoyed this one! :-)