Best American Essays

Oates, Joyce Carol, ed. The Best American Essays of the Century. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

As bloggers we cannot help but be reminded that November is National Novel Writing Month. It’s as if there a reminding hope that writing these one-three paragraph diatribes could somehow be transformed into something as concrete, or as interesting, as a full blown novel. I squirm with discomfort every time someone says I should write a book. While my stories are interesting…to a point, I don’t see a need to make them more than what they are: tiny bubbles of thought designed to pop (and ultimately, hopefully) go away when released.

Anyway. This isn’t about me and my nonability to write. This is about the complilation of essays from those who can.
Best American Essays of the Century wraps up the creme de la creme of essay writing from 1901 – 1997. Beginning with Mark Twain (“Corn-pone Opinions”) and ending with Saul Bellow (“Graven Images.”) As part of the Book Lust Challenge I read the following essays:

  • “Stickeen” by John Muir ~ “…for many of Nature’s finest lessons are to be found in her storms” (p 32).
  • “Corn-pone Opinions” by Mark Twain ~ “We are creatures of outside influence; as a rule we do not think, we only imitate” (p 1).
  • “A Law of Acceleration” by Henry Adams
  • “The Devil Baby at Hull-House” by Jane Adams
  • “The Crack-up” by F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ Life was something you dominated if you were any good” (p 139).
  • “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: an Autobiographical Sketch” by Richard Wright
  • “Sex Ex Machina” by James Thurber ~ “Every person carries in his consciousness the old scar, or the fresh wound of some harrowing misadventure with a contraption of some sort” (p 157).
  • “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “The Brown Wasps” by Loren Eisley
  • “A drugstore in Winter” by Cynthia Ozick

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Essaying Essays” (p 80).

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