The Best American Essays 1995

Overview

With a suspicious eye for "the fixed form or the fixed category of any kind," Jamaica Kincaid, this year's guest editor, has assembled a bold assortment of works by some of today's finest prose stylists, including Edward Hoagland, Grace Paley, James A. McPherson, William H. Gass, Cynthia Ozick, John Edgar Wideman, and Joseph Brodsky. Showcased here are preeminent pieces from periodicals such as the Alaska Quarterly Review, Harper's Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and Prairie Schooner. Together they ...
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Overview

With a suspicious eye for "the fixed form or the fixed category of any kind," Jamaica Kincaid, this year's guest editor, has assembled a bold assortment of works by some of today's finest prose stylists, including Edward Hoagland, Grace Paley, James A. McPherson, William H. Gass, Cynthia Ozick, John Edgar Wideman, and Joseph Brodsky. Showcased here are preeminent pieces from periodicals such as the Alaska Quarterly Review, Harper's Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and Prairie Schooner. Together they bring readers into remarkably diverse realms, from the blues clubs of Chicago to yesteryear's Hollywood Avenue, from the Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village to the inviting lushness of a vegetable garden. Topical and trenchant, impertinent and confiding, this wide-ranging display appeals to poetry, social protest, the nuances of language, and even the politics of "good hair," all giving voice to the vibrant dialogue that characterizes American life.

Continuing the celebrated tradition, The Best American Essays 1995 dazzles and surprises with its inventive, colorful cornucopia of essays drawn from periodicals across the country. Showcased here are the preeminent pieces from the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, and others, written by some of today's finest prose stylists.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Readers expecting Kincaid's choices for best American essays to reflect her own fiction style-i.e., taut and direct-are bound to be disappointed. There are some accessible pieces-Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s on African American hair and Maxine Kumin's on gardening stand out as the kind of engaging and illuminating essays that readers have come to expect from this annual collection. But these pieces-as well as memoirs by Grace Paley, John Edgar Wideman and Tobias Wolff-are overwhelmed by pedantic ramblings that uneasily straddle the line between intellectual and pretentious. Consider this: Josephine Foo's title, ``Endou'' had to be footnoted (it means ``endow'')-and the content's not much more accessible or Elaine Scarry's ``Counting At Dusk (Why Poetry Matters When the Century Ends)'' which includes convoluted prose like this: ``Against this impossibility of experiential sequence is the poet's own act of lifting forward, making sensuously available, the phenomenon of sequence.'' Perhaps Kincaid appreciates this sort of writing. But this series isn't supposed to be a forum for abstruse musings-that's what academic specialty journals are for. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Guest editor Kincaid delivers a satisfying if wonderless selection in this year's Best. From Joseph Brodsky's weighty "Homage to Marcus Aurelius," which opens the collection, to Elaine Scarry's academic "Counting at Dusk (Why Poetry Matters When the Century Ends)," Kincaid has brought out the heavy guns. William H. Gass's "The Art of Self," a long-winded, solipsistic take on biography, is juxtaposed with Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s humorous childhood depiction of "good" and "bad" black hair in "In the Kitchen." Edward Hoagland offers bittersweet remembrances of cheating on his wife in "Strange Perfume" and Cynthia Ozick of her six days without pen or paper in Greenwich Village's Women's House of Detention. Maxine Kumin's "Jicama, Without Expectation," a diary of the growing season from her farm, punctuates the collection like a sudden, refreshing shower. The essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Artes, Harper's, the Threepenny Review, and others. For literature collections.Amy Boaz, "Library Journal"
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395691830
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/15/1995
  • Series: Best American Essays Series
  • Pages: 263
  • Product dimensions: 5.58 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction
Homage to Marcus Aurelius 1
Eros at Sea 27
Dying: An Update 42
When Negative Meets Positive 66
Burl's 73
Gots Is What You Got 83
Endou 93
The Art of Self 100
In the Kitchen 117
Strange Perfume 125
Salt 140
Jicama, Without Expectation 150
Saturday Night, and Sunday Morning 168
Waiting 177
The Break 183
Six Days: Some Rememberings 187
The Necessity of Poetry 193
Father Stories 205
Civilian 216
Counting at Dusk (Why Poetry Matters When the Century Ends) 232
Biographical Notes 254
Notable Essays of 1994 259
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