The Best American Essays 2000 by Robert Atwan

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Synopsis

As this acclaimed series celebrates its fifteenth year, Alan Lightman, the best-selling author of Einstein's Dreams, has assembled a diverse, very personal collection of the year's best short nonfiction, writings that celebrate the essay as an independent genre unlike any other. In his introduction, he declares that the ideal essay is "not an assignment, to be dispatched efficiently and intelligently, but an exploration, a questioning, an introspection . . . It thrashes and moves, like all living things." These pieces embrace stylistic freedom and strong opinions while affording the reader a fascinating view of work in progress, offering a front-row seat as the writer's mind struggles with truth, memory, and experience.
This year's selection features extraordinary essays by such renowned writers as Mary Gordon, Edward Hoagland, Jamaica Kincaid, and Wendell Berry as well by some talented new voices, on a delightfully dizzying variety of subjects. Andre Aciman wrestles with memories of remembering Paris, and William H. Gass delivers an exuberant defense of the printed book as a safe port in the data storms of the information age. Peter Singer views world poverty with an ethicist's eye, and Andrew Sullivan maps the spread of hate crimes in America.
"The qualities I treasure most about these essays are their authenticity and life," Lightman writes. As this volume of THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS demonstrates, this unique literary form continues to thrive as a creative outlet for some of America's finest writers.
 

About Robert Atwan

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Alan Lightman was born in Memphis, Tenn. in 1948. As a boy, he had what seemed like incompatible interests--writing poetry and building rockets. He eventually put his literary interests aside to concentrate on science. After completing an A.B. at Princeton University in 1970, a Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology in 1974, and postdoctoral studies at Cornell University in 1976, Lightman moved directly into academia, teaching astronomy and physics at Harvard, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In the 1980s, however, Lightman found a way to combine his literary and scientific interests when he began to write essays about science. He explored astronomy, cosmology, particle physics, space exploration, and the life of a scientist, writing about these topics in a way that makes them understandable to the average reader. Many of his essays can be found in the collections Time Travel and Papa Joe's Pipe and A Modern-Day Yankee in a Connecticut Court and Other Essays on Science. Alan Lightman is also the author of "Ancient Light: Our Changing View of the Universe", which won the Boston Globe's 1991 Critics' Choice award for non-fiction; and co-author of "Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists", which received an award from the Association of American Publishers in 1990. In the 1990's, Lightman branched out into fiction, although still with a focus on science, with the novels "Einstein's Dreams" and "Good Benito. Robert Atwan is the series editor of The Best American Essays. He recently edited Divine Inspiration, a volume of world poetry on the Gospels.
 
Published October 26, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 320 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Eliot's ""Tradition and the Individual Talent."" Oates has managed to find numerous pieces whose vision and philosophy resonate with one another without becoming homogeneous, so Gretel Ehrlich's meditation on pastoral aesthetics in ""The Solace of Open Spaces"" contrasts abruptly and ingeniously ...

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Publishers Weekly

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The selections come from a range of journals, and though the usual suspects--the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and Harper's--are well represented, several less established literary venues, such as Doubletake and Sierra, are a welcome addition.

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