Culled by Wolff ( The Duke of Deception ) and series editor Robert Atwan from magazines and journals (six of 21 essays are, disproportionately, from Harper's ), this anthology excels, from Wolff's introductory remarks about the evolution of his own writing through Victor Zaslavsky's piece on intrigue in a Soviet library. A few strong selections come from lesser-known authors, such as Judy Ruiz's account of her brother's sex-change operation, but most are by acknowledged masters; among these are Robert Stone on the 1988 Republican convention, Joan Didion on the presidential election, Richard Ford on growing up in a hotel, Stanley Elkin on touring with a dance company--he read aloud, they danced--and Christopher Hitchens on discovering, late in life, his Jewish heritage. There are two ``celebrity'' essays--Julian Barnes gives the emotional play-by-play of his chess match with Arthur Koestler and Frank Conroy describes a series of youthful meetings with Justice William O. Douglas. Not surprisingly, mortality proves a popular theme--Edward Hoagland's measured thoughts on suicide and Leonard Kriegel's comments on the difficulty of ``falling,'' though about death, are oddly uplifting. One general complaint: women are under-represented. (Oct.)
Begun in 1986, this series is intended to represent ``the rich scope and wide variety of the form'' ( LJ 1/87). Contributors range from well-known writers like Julian Barnes, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Stanley Elkin, and Gay Talese to relative unknowns like Judy Ruiz, an Arkansas grandmother who considers her brother's sex-change operation, and Leonard Kriegel, a cripple who recounts his fight to gain independence. Notes Robert Atwan, who wrote the foreword, this year's selections are ``intimate, candid, revealing, close to the pulse of human experience.''-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''