A thoughtfully edited volume that reflects America’s changing social, political, and cultural life.

THE GLORIOUS AMERICAN ESSAY

ONE HUNDRED ESSAYS FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO THE PRESENT

Four centuries of essays testify to the richness of the form.

In the first of a projected three volumes of collected essays, Lopate offers what he justifiably calls “a smorgasbord of treats, a place to begin to sample the endless riches of the American essay”: 100 essays from the 18th to the 21st centuries, from Cotton Mather to Zadie Smith. Volume 2, The Golden Age of the American Essay, will focus on the years 1945-2000, and Volume 3 will be dedicated to pieces from the 21st century. Many writers included here are likely to be familiar to readers but perhaps not to the students for whom this collection seems aimed, with its informative introduction, succinct headnotes, and contents organized by both theme and form. George Washington is represented by his Farewell Address; Emerson, by “Experience”; Margaret Fuller, by an excerpt from Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Thoreau rings in, predictably, with “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For”; Henry James, with “The Art of Fiction”; Jane Addams, with a piece on settlement houses; William James, with “What Makes a Life Significant?” Some essays—such as Dorothy Parker’s musings on people notable for their goodness and James Thurber’s on men’s idealizing of women—seem dusty, if not dated, although Fanny Fern’s dryly satirical “Delightful Men,” from 1870, has lost none of its bite. Essays that consider race, ethnicity, disability, social justice, and sexual orientation make the collection timely. In “The Homosexual Villain,” written for a gay magazine in 1955, Norman Mailer candidly reveals the experiences and readings that transformed his bias against gay men. “My God, homosexuals are people too,” he realized suddenly. Among the many other notable contributors are Edgar Allan Poe, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, M.F.K. Fisher, James Baldwin, Rachel Carson, and Jamaica Kincaid.

. A thoughtfully edited volume that reflects America’s changing social, political, and cultural life.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4726-8

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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