THE ANCHOR ESSAY ANNUAL

THE BEST OF 1998

With essays by more than 25 writers from around the world, this collection presents a diverse and usually engaging, arguably comprehensive cross-section of some of today’s best nonfiction. Since their perfection by Montaigne, essays have gone through any number of peaks and sloughs of popularity. Now they are such the rage that creative writing programs are rushing to offer essay MFAs. As surely as any tulip craze, it’s a bubble, one that is responsible for most of the least successful essays here, with their pointless autobiographizing, tedious solipsism, and strained preciousness. Fortunately, given the size and breadth and general quality of this collection, these few clunkers can be quickly and almost harmlessly skipped over. Overall, Lopate (Portrait of My Body, 1996, etc.), in his second stint as editor of this collection, has done a signal job of amassing and arranging a number of challenging, revealing, even startling essays—although, with contributions from such notables as David Foster Wallace, Luc Sante, Edward Said, and Francine Prose, it’s hard to go too far wrong. Topics range across the full spectrum of the comÇdie humaine, from birth to divorce to death and everything in between. Yet there is a charming quirkiness to many of the selections, a necessary unnecessariness that reveals more than a more conventional, straightforward essay might. For example, there is Edward Hoagland on his encounters with wild animals, Margaret Talbot on ’50s pin-up legend Bettie Page, Emily Fox Gordon on being a faculty wife. Lopate has managed to put in something for everybody without most of the dumbing down and leaden compromises such a popularist enterprise usually requires. Like a box of chocolates, full of surprises—and usually good ones: A few more collections of this caliber, and Anchor might just have an institution on its hands.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-48414-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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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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