The Pushcart Book of Essays: The Best Essays From a Quarter Century of the Pushcart Prize

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Overview

What an immense wealth of talent has appeared in the first 25 years of The Pushcart Prize editions, and much of that talent has been displayed in these essays. From the start of The Pushcart Prize series in 1976 the editors have recognized and honored the essay; over the years these annual collections from our independent presses have witnessed the development of many forms of the genre, including a strong renaissance in the personal essay. This monumental collection selects opinions and reflections on much of the social, literary and political history of recent decades.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In celebration of the first 25 years of the Pushcart Prize, Brandt, essays editor since 1986, presents 35 glorious works, ranging from literary critiques, including Robert Hass on Wallace Stevens and Seamus Heaney on Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, to explorations of political or social conscience, such as John Balaban's examination of his role in the Vietnam War and Sara Suleri's ode to her female relatives in Pakistan, "a place where the concept of woman was not really part of an available vocabulary." According to Brandt, what distinguishes the best of the best is the impact on the reader. Power is the distinctive ingredient, as demonstrated by Terrence Des Pres's palpable despair at the superficiality and self-centeredness he sees in poetry being produced in a world that could be leveled, at any moment, by a nuclear war. Unexpected surprises are offered by Irma Wallem's lively description of her sexual seduction as a nursing home resident and by Lars Eighner's eloquent lesson on finding freedom and meaning as a homeless man. Not surprisingly, several of the contributors write about the writing life, including Joyce Carol Oates, Leslie A. Fiedler and Bret Lott (on recognizing that writing a great book is not the most important accomplishment in the world). In two very satisfying pieces, Andre Dubus discusses how not knowing what he is going to say as he wrestles with and teaches Hemingway's story "In Another Country" before he enters the classroom is the beauty of learning, just as, Donald Barthelme would aver, "the not-knowing" is vital to creating art. Wholly readable from beginning to end, this is an artfully written and arranged collection. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners BusinessInformation.
Library Journal
Longtime essay editor for the annual Pushcart Prize, Brandt has selected the best essays from Pushcart's first quarter century. While one can always quarrel with the inclusion or exclusion of a particular piece, overall this is a lively collection that shows firsthand the resurgence of the essay form. The essays are arranged chronologically, and even the first, dating from 1977, seems very modern. In that piece, El Huitlacoche pens a touching memoir of his father, the inventor of, among other things, the automatic jumping bean. Old favorites also appear: Phillip Lopate's "Against Joie de Vivre," Franklin Burroughs's "A Snapping Turtle in June," and Louise Erdrich's "Skunk Dreams." Subject matter is all over the map: Bret Lott writes about his book's being chosen by Oprah, Daniel Henry tells an amazing bird story in his perfectly titled "A Murder of Crows," and Emily Hiestand entertains with an account of her journey to get neon tubes installed on her car's undercarriage. What unites these disparate pieces is the excellent quality of the writing. This collection is the first of a trilogy of selected works from Pushcart; the other two will assemble the best poetry and the best stories. Recommended for most libraries. Mary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A rewarding collection from the annual Pushcart Prize anthology series, now numbering 25 volumes. Founded by editor Bill Henderson in the mid-1970s, the Pushcart Prize honored what he considered to be the best offerings from the country's small presses and literary journals. The period, writes volume editor Brandt, corresponds with "a remarkable rebirth of both the art and the prestige of the essay," and this gathering speaks very ably indeed to the power of a well-crafted piece of nonfiction to speak volumes in a short space. It begins, strangely, with one of the few clunkers, a diffuse piece on street life on the Mexican border that is long on idiom and local color but short on point; from there, however, the book quickly gathers steam. Brandt's selections are nicely balanced, mixing work by men and women, by academics and nonacademics, by established and beginning writers; many of the contributions, including both personal and critical pieces, have gone on to appear in other anthologies and collections of the individual authors' works. Among the many highlights are Leslie Fiedler's nicely peevish essay "Literature and Lucre," about just that; Clark Blaise's longish reflection on growing up Canadian, "Memories of Unhousement"; Donald Hall's widely cited manifesto "Literature and Ambition," Joyce Carol Oates's thoughtful "Notes on Failure"; and Lewis Hyde's remarkable "Two Accidents," about the role of chance in art and life. Some of the best work, however, comes from writers who are largely unknown outside the small-press orbit: Irma Wallem's touching essay "Sex," set in a nursing home; Thomas Lynch's "Jessica, the Hound, and the Basket Trade," which gives readers an insider's view ofthe mortician's lot; and Lars Eighner's spirited, punkish "On Dumpster Diving," which reveals the treasures to be found in a grocery store's trash. Fine bedside reading, and a better-than-average textbook for composition students.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781888889246
  • Publisher: Pushcart Press, The
  • Publication date: 1/15/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 550
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Table of Contents

El Huitlacoche, "The Man Who Invented the Automatic Jumping Bean." 15
John Balaban, "Doing Good." 26
Vine Deloria, "Civilization and Isolation." 39
Leslie Fiedler, "Literature and Lucre: A Meditation." 50
Clark Blaise, "Memories of Unhousement, A Memoir." 62
Joyce Carol Oates, "Notes on Failure." 86
Terrence Des Pres, "Self/Landscape/Grid." 101
Donald Hall, "Poetry and Ambition." 111
Donald Barthelme, "Not-Knowing." 129
Eliot Weinberger, "Paper Tigers." 144
Phillip Lopate, "Against 'Joie De Vivre'." 159
Sara Suleri, "Excellent Things in Women." 178
William Kittredge, "Redneck Secrets." 195
Seamus Heaney, "Atlas of Civilization." 204
Franklin Burroughs, "a Snapping Turtle in June." 220
Susan Bergman, "Anonymity." 240
Naomi Shihab Nye, "Maintenance." 252
Philip Levine, "Mine Own John Berryman." 262
Lars Eighner, "On Dumpster Diving." 287
Perdita Schaffner, "a Day at the St. Regis with Dame Edith." 300
Robert Hass, "Wallace Stevens." 309
Marvin Bell, "Homage to the Runner: Bloody Brain Work." 320
Brenda Miller, "a Thousand Buddhas." 328
Louise Erdrich, "Skunk Dreams." 337
Vicki Hearne, "Oyez a Beaumont." 348
Irma Wallem, "Sex." 354
Thomas Lynch, "Jessica, The Hound, and the Casket Trade." 361
Charles Simic, "New York Days, 1958-1964." 371
Lewis Hyde, "Two Accidents: Reflections On Chance and Creativity." 384
Andre Dubus, "a Hemingway Story." 404
Daniel Henry, "A Murder of Crows." 412
Paula Fox, "Borrowed Finery." 418
Emily Hiestand, "Neon Effects." 425
Brett Lott, "Toward Humility." 436
Gary Fincke, "the Canals of Mars." 456
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