This collection could have used more variety, but the preponderance of stories on human mortality doesn't make it a downer;...

THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2011

Sickness, murder, death, sudden loss—the latest installment in this venerable series skews heavily toward personal essays in which people face up to life’s overwhelming sadness.

Paul Crenshaw (“After the Ice”) recalls the infant nephew who was murdered by his stepfather; Madge McKeithen (“What Really Happened”) details her prison visit to see a man who murdered his wife, who was the author’s best friend. The poet Toi Derricotte (“Beds”) tells of her lifelong love-hate battle with an abusive father. In “Grieving,” Meenakshi Gigi Durham watches as her academic husband is denied tenure, and assesses what it means for a dedicated professional to suddenly find himself in free-fall. Christopher Hitchens (“Topic of Cancer”) faces a wretched diagnosis with his usual unsentimental eloquence, as he goes “from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.” The strongest, most interesting essays put a face on larger issues. In “What Broke My Father’s Heart,” Katy Butler tells how her father’s pacemaker allowed his body to live long after his brain stopped functioning; the essay raises tough questions about how expensive medical care can exacerbate more pain than it relieves. Charlie LeDuff’s deeply reported “What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?” takes a case that went horribly wrong—a 7-year-old girl killed when cops busted into the wrong apartment—and uses it as a reflection on how crime-ridden Detroit has become a toxic environment for residents and innocent bystanders alike. In another big-picture piece, “Generation Why?” Zadie Smith assesses how Facebook is a perfect reflection of the shallow mind of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Other contributors include Hilton Als, Mischa Berlinski and Pico Iyer.

This collection could have used more variety, but the preponderance of stories on human mortality doesn't make it a downer; the brave voices behind these experiences keep the pages turning.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-47977-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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