Though the rubric of “essay” seems to be synonymous with “intimate memoir,” these frequently personal encounters remain...

THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2013

Still under the general editorship of Robert Atwan and this year edited by Strayed (Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, 2012, etc.), the annual reprise of the venerable series takes a decidedly introspective turn.

More than two dozen talented authors, selected by Strayed, write about themselves, more or less. Whether it’s this year’s editor or the times, it seems more, not less, and first-person singular is the prevailing mode. Don’t look here for classical essays about the state of civilization or self-effacing reportage or unencumbered humor—no shades of E.B. White, Dorothy Parker, Stephen Jay Gould, Joseph Epstein or John McPhee. Rather, among many notable pieces, Zadie Smith muses at length about her coming to appreciate the artistry of Joni Mitchell, Steven Harvey provides a powerful recollection of his mother and her suicide, Jon Kerstetter writes of the pain of combat triage, and Vanessa Veselka presents a harrowing story of runaway girls who ride with truckers. Yielding pleasures beyond the frisson of tales of other people’s woes, the selections are seriously considered and often artfully constructed. With many rhetorical flourishes, they concern fraught travels, serious illnesses, mothers, fathers, youthful friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, birth, life, a lot of death and, perforce, self. Many of these personal essays seek to take on larger meanings, and if some heartfelt pieces, to make a universal point, confuse the essay form with a confessional, the practice works. Other notable contributors include John Jeremiah Sullivan, Alice Munro, Walter Kirn, Charles Baxter, Dagoberto Gilb, and the sources are diverse, from the New YorkerGQ and the New York Times Magazine to River TeethPrairie Schooner and ZYZZYVA.

Though the rubric of “essay” seems to be synonymous with “intimate memoir,” these frequently personal encounters remain oddly seductive.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-544-10388-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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