Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyWhat's best about these essays is their diversity, both of content and approach. From Nicholson Baker's wittily erudite discourse on punctuation (``Are the marks that we have right now really enough?'' he wonders) to Mark Kramer's report on how Muscovites in post-Communist Russia spend their weekends (``Entire families flee''), this collection is equal parts literary achievement and manual for the autodidact. Kidder has included essays on art, literature, science and performing orangutans in Las Vegas, courtesy of established writers including, respectively, Adam Gopnik, David Denby, Stephen Jay Gould and Vicki Hearne. Among the strongest pieces are journalistic essays covering current events. Ted Conover writes a compelling account of his travels with truck drivers in AIDS-ridden East Africa, where his companions claim that ``If you sleep with a virgin it will often take away your AIDS''; and Darcy Frey provides an in-depth look at the painfully exploitative relationship between high school athletes in the ghettos of Coney Island and the college basketball recruiters who alternately woo and ignore them. Of the few personal essays Kidder included, two that deserve special mention are those by Lucy Grealy and Lauren Slater, both of whom have created stunning pieces on the self-absorbed topic of self-image. (Nov.)
Library JournalThis edition of the year's outstanding essays, the ninth in a distinguished series, is characterized by its eclectic nature both in author and subject matter. Entries include autobiographical, critical, and journalistic essays on such diverse topics as Nicholson Baker's humorous history of punctuation, an account of long-distance truckers, Ted Conover's piece on the AIDS epidemic in Rwanda, and Louise Erdrich's encounter with a skunk when she was 14. Edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder, these essays capture the concern, thoughts, and pulse of 1994, from Lucy Grealy's personal account of living with disfigurement to David Denby's defense of the literary canon. This anthology should win some converts to the essay form since it provides informative and exciting reading from some of America's most talented prose writers, many of whom have won awards for the contributions. Strongly recommended for all libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY-Genesco
Zom ZomsThe well-written essay could be called a report from the front lines of life, or better yet, of reality. "The Best American Essays, 1994", edited by Tracy Kidder, offers wonderful examples of the genre. With 21 contributors, subjects are as eclectic as ever, from journalist Ted Conover's account of AIDS and its spread in central Africa to Cynthia Ozick's description of Salman Rushdie's not so clandestine appearance at an international conference at the Louvre. Both of these essays excel in their ability to convey both the light and dark of human drama. But many of the other essays achieve that quality, too. Stanley Elkin's "Out of One's Tree" is a riveting account of a man's loss of time and space when confined by illness to a wheelchair and facing possible madness. Paul Theroux delivers an eloquent tribute to his good friend Bruce Chatwin, celebrating Chatwin's life without resorting to cliches about his passing. Ian Frazier's "The Frankest Interview Yet" is the shortest essay here and the most "naked." It's a no-holds-barred confession of daily lust. Since 1986 this series has offered the reader fine examples of the essay; this year's collection holds firm to a strong and growing tradition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews