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The philosopher Peter Singer makes a case for philanthropy; the poet Molly Peacock constructs a mosaic tribute to a little-known but remarkable eighteenth-century woman artist; the novelist Marilynne Robinson explores what has happened to holiness in contemporary Christianity; the essayist Richard Rodriguez wonders if California has anything left to say to America; and the Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson attempts to find common ground with the evangelical community.
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Table of Contents for: The best American essays 2007
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Rainer Maria Rilke Richard Hugo. Robert Bly. Sara Teasdale.
Shiki haiku. Stephen Dunn. Ted Kooser.
Series Editor Robert Atwan. The essay, in partial definition, is The essay begins with an ordinary subject — a goldfish dies — and ends, the essayist hopes, with an unexpected subject: what is death?
It is closer to philosophy and psychology than to poetry and polemic. If a poet knows too exactly what the small object means for the big subject, in fact, it doesn't feel sufficiently poetic. Each one of these essayists asks the essayist's essential question, which is not the preacher's or polemicist's question — how shall we live? Chad Boult, the geriatrics professor now at Johns Hopkins, On the ground a group of vultures is called a venue, but a group circling in the air is a kettle, as if they are swirling in a clear cauldron, a school of black fish swimming in a pure soup of air.
To qualify for this volume, the essay must be a work of respectable literary quality, intended as a fully developed, independent essay on a subject of general interest not specialized scholarship , originally written in English or translated by the author for publication in an American periodical during the calendar year. Today's essay is a highly flexible and shifting form, however, so these criteria are not carved in stone. I think it's unlikely that anyone is reading this as an introduction. They skip around, pick and choose Which means that the reader has more freedom of choice, which of course is part of what this country is all about.
Molly Peacock — Poet, Author, Speaker
The guest editor's intro is last, if at all. The real Decider, in terms of processing info and reducing entropy, is Mr. Robert Atwan, the BAE series editor Given the amount of quiet, behind-the-scenes power he wields over these prize collections, you're entitled to ask about Mr. Atwan's standard's for inclusion and forwarding; [Here Wallace gives us the footnote for this page; he displays affection for peppered and peppery footnotes: I believe this is what is known in the nonfiction industry as a transition.
We are starting to poke tentatively at 'Best', which is the most obviously fraught and bias-prone word on the cover. It certainly was necessary to educate the mainstream of democratic societies to respect the rights of minorities, but now immigrants and their offspring must learn that to be offended is the price we all must pay for our freedom of speech and freedom of thought. Since many immigrants come from places where such freedom does not exist, they should be the first to appreciate its benefits. Documents surfaced, such as the so-called torture memo of August 1, , showing that very close associates of President Bush, apparently with his full approval, had encouraged torture.
Lions and hyenas kill swiftly. Housecats play with their victims, but only to practice pouncing, not to cause pain. Tapeworms and the shingles virus keep their victims alive as sources of sustenance, not to cause pain. Robert Atwan's favorite literary genre is the essay. As editor and founder of The Best American Essays series, Atwan has read thousands of examples of the remarkably flexible form. If there is any essential characteristic we can attribute to the essay, it may be this: that the truest examples of the form enact that ever-shifting process, and in that enactment we can find the basis for the essay's qualification to be regarded seriously as imaginative literature and the essayist's claim to be taken seriously as a creative writer.
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He also made a point of selecting the best essays , as opposed to examples from the best essayists. We were interested to see that six of the ten best essays are available for free reading online. Here is Atwan's list, along with links to those essays that are on the Web:. And the best essays show that the name of the genre is also a verb, so they demonstrate a mind in process--reflecting, trying-out, essaying.
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