A wide variety of quality writing, both reflective and reported.



Plenty of good reading in this 25th annual anthology, though it extends the definition of “essay” past the point of category.

In the foreword, series editor Robert Atwan addresses the technological changes that have, or haven’t, affected the essay: “What are blogs but today’s version of essays in disguise?” This volume’s editor, Vanity Fair contributor Hitchens (Hitch-22, 2010, etc.), offers an economic consideration that the year “was not a healthy one for the sorts of magazines that take the risk of publishing the essay form.” (The magazines represented in this installment include mostly the usual suspects, like the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic and the New York Review of Books, with only one real surprise: the Alaska Quarterly Review.) But what is that essay form? One of the pieces, “A Rake’s Progress” by Matt Labash, is a fairly standard—and very good—feature profile of former Washington, D.C., mayor Marion Barry. Another, “Speaking in Tongues” by Zadie Smith, is a reprint of a lecture she delivered at the New York Public Library. James Wood’s concluding “A Fine Range” is an extended book review of a couple of recent collections of George Orwell’s essays. Among the pieces that would be more conventionally classified as essays are illuminating appreciations of John Updike (by Ian McEwan) and William F. Buckley (by Garry Wills). Jane Kramer’s “Me, Myself, and I,” about reading Montaigne, cuts to the heart of the essay and the essence of coming to terms with life and death through writing, while Brian Doyle’s short, sharp “Irreconcilable Dissonance” uses divorce to make provocative comments on marriage. Other notable contributors include David Sedaris, Steven Pinker, Walter Isaacson and Phillip Lopate.

A wide variety of quality writing, both reflective and reported.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-39451-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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



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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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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