The Best American Essays of the Century by Robert Atwan
(The Best American Series)

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This singular collection is nothing less than a political, spiritual, and intensely personal record of America's tumultuous modern age by our foremost critics, commentators, activists, and artists. In her introduction to this volume, Joyce Carol Oates describes her project as "a search for the expression of personal experience within the historical, the individual talent within the tradition." Along with Robert Atwan, who has overseen the acclaimed BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS series since its inception in 1986, Oates has chosen a list of works that are both intimate and important, essays that take on subjects of profound and universal significance while retaining the power and spirit of a personal address.
This collection honors some of the twentieth century's best-known and best-loved writers on a breathtaking variety of topics. In a journalistic mode, Ernest Hemingway covers the bullfights in Pamplona, H. L. Mencken reacts to the Scopes trial, and Michael Herr dodges bullets in a helicopter over Vietnam. Nowhere is the intersection of our personal and political histories more meaningful than when the subject is America’s enduring legacy of racial strife, as shown by Richard Wright’s "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," James Baldwin’s "Notes of a Native Son," Zora Neale Hurston’s "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," and others. The wonders and horrors of science, nature, and the cosmos are explored with eloquence, bravery, and beauty when Lewis Thomas writes about "The Lives of a Cell," Rachel Carson mulls "The Marginal World," and Stephen Jay Gould preaches evolution and baseball in "The Creation Myths of Cooperstown." Taken together, these essays fit, in the words of Joyce Carol Oates, "into a kind of mobile mosaic suggest[ing] where we've come from, and who we are, and where we are going."

Mark Twain • W.E.B. Du Bois • Henry Adams • John Muir • William James • Randolph Bourne • John Jay Chapman • Jane Addams • T. S. Eliot • Ernest Hemingway • H. L. Mencken • Zora Neale Hurston • Edmund Wilson • Gertrude Stein • F. Scott Fitzgerald • James Thurber • Richard Wright • James Agee • Robert Frost • E. B. White • S. J. Perelman • Langston Hughes • Katherine Anne Porter • Mary McCarthy • Rachel Carson • James Baldwin • Loren Eiseley • Eudora Welty • Donald Hall • Martin Luther King, Jr. • Tom Wolfe • Susan Sontag • Vladimir Nabokov • N. Scott Momaday • Elizabeth Hardwick • Michael Herr • Maya Angelou • Lewis Thomas • John McPhee • William H. Gass • Maxine Hong Kingston • Alice Walker • Adrienne Rich • Joan Didion • Richard Rodriguez • Gretel Ehrlich • Annie Dillard • Cynthia Ozick • William Manchester • Edward Hoagland • Stephen Jay Gould • Gerald Early • John Updike • Joyce Carol Oates • Saul Bellow

About Robert Atwan

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JOYCE CAROL OATES is the recipient of the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and the winner of the National Book Award. Among her major works are We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and The Falls. ROBERT ATWAN has been the series editor of The Best American Essays since its inception in 1986. He has edited numerous literary anthologies and written essays and reviews for periodicals nationwide.
Published September 22, 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 544 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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An eclectic anthology of 55 essays chosen by Oates (Blonde, p.

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Publishers Weekly

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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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Entertainment Weekly

Oates says she favored pieces ''in which private contemplation touches on crucial public issues'' — so James Baldwin's brilliantly ironic meditation on race, ''Notes of a Native Son,'' rubs shoulders with environmental writer Rachel Carson's luminous ''The Marginal World.'' Whether reportage...

Sep 08 2000 | Read Full Review of The Best American Essays of t...

Bookmarks Magazine

Joyce Carol Oates has collected a group of works that are both intimate and important, essays that move from personal experience to larger significance without severing the connection between speaker and audience.
From Ernest Hemingway covering bullfights in Pamplona to Martin Luther King, ...

Jan 10 2011 | Read Full Review of The Best American Essays of t...

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