best american essays 2007

anonymous asked:

unique asks: 3, 15, 45

3) Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 23, give me line 17.

From THE GLAMOUR OF GRAMMAR (no, not kidding):

Check out this sentence by Robert Atwan taken from his foreword to The Best American Essays 2007:

But the hardy type of essay that evolved from Montaigne’s innovative prose has long been identified as the essay, and it had received many labels over the centuries: the informal essay, the periodicl essay, the moral essay, the anecdotal essay, the familiar essay, the personal essay, the true essay, and even…the “right” essay.

Yes, this is my bedtime reading (no, not kidding).

15) How do you vent your anger?

I take a long walk or bitch to a friend.

45) How can I win your heart?

Hmm. Ask me about my writing? Or teaching? Care really deeply about something and be passionate when you talk about it.

(Unique Asks)

There is a reactionary aspect to the ideal of multiculturalism as it is espoused in Britain and the Netherlands, and increasingly even in the United States. It presumes that minorities would rather be represented by ethnic or religious leaders than by national ones. This gives too much power to community leaders whose status is depending on their ability to control the way we speak or think about the people supposedly in their charge, and it stops people from thinking of themselves as individuals and citizens. In fact, it thwarts national discussion altogether. And rational discussion is a vital aspect of political education. 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 thought.
— 

Essay #3: “The Freedom to Offend” by Ian Buruma from the New Republic and printed in Best American Essays 2007

I didn’t pick this quote from the essay because I agree with it entirely (I don’t), but because I think it does a good job summing up Buruma’s main argument: by limiting discourse by calling “offensive” too often, we limit our ability to really talk about important issues. However, I disagree with the way Buruma places this problem as one that comes from leaders in minority communities – frankly, it seems to me that almost everyone in every group needs to get a thicker skin when it comes to accusations of bias or offense. 

This was definitely a provocative political essay, and it got me thinking about my strong support of freedom of speech again, which I liked. 

Americans have been promised – by God, by the Constitution of the United States, by Edna Ferber – that we shall enjoy liberty to pursue happiness. The pursuit constitutes what we have some to call the American Dream.

Americans feel disappointment so keenly because our optimism is so large and is so often insisted upon by historians. And so often justified by history. The stock market measures optimism. If you don’t feel optimistic, there must be something wrong with you. There are pills for disappointment.

—  Essay #13: “Disappointment” by Richard Rodriguez, reprinted in Best American Essays 2007 from California
The written word, except for a few works of poetry, never provides more than incomplete knowledge. Reading cannot provide too much knowledge, but timing is everything. The art of reading involves intuiting when to read and when not. As readers, we do not enlarge ourselves by taking no risks, but even a masterpiece read at the wrong time is a waste of time, or worse.
—  A lovely way of expressing the “It’s not you, it’s me!” factor in choosing the right book at the right time. This comes from Essay #5, “An Orgy of Power” by George Gessert, originally published in Northwest Review and read in Best American Essays 2007. The essay is a current affairs and philosophical discussion of torture, with many beautiful paragraphs, but this was the one I liked best. 
Essay #1: "Introduction: Deciderization 2007 - a Special Report" by David Foster Wallace

Even though I tend to skip introductions to essay collections – I’m impatient – anything by David Foster Wallace is worth reading. His introduction to The Best American Essays 2007 collection didn’t dissapoint.

It basically amounts to a deconstruction of the whole idea of “best American essays” and explains what he sees as his role as, not editor, but Decider, is in putting the collection together. Like other DFW, there are footnotes and some winding prose, but there are also some charateristically brilliant sentences and arguments about the perils of living in an age of Total Noise where the mark of informed citizenry is not ingesting everything but making smart choices about who you allow to cull and Decide on information for you.

And there was this lovely paragraph (among many) that made me pause to enjoy it:

There are, as it happens, intergenre differences that I know and care about as a writer, though these differences are hard to talk about in a way that someone who doesn’t try to write both fiction and nonfiction will understand. I’m worried that they’ll sound cheesy and melodramatic. Although maybe they won’t. Maybe, given the ambient volume of your own life’s noise, the main difference will make sense to you. Writing-wise, fiction is scarier, but nonfiction is harder – because nonfiction’s based in reality, and today’s felt reality is overwhelmingly, circuit-blowingly huge and complex. Whereas fiction comes out of nothing. Actually, so wait: the truth is both genres are scary; both feel like they’re executed on tightropes, over abysses – it’s the abysses that are different. Fiction’s abyss is silence, nada. Whereas nonfiction’s abyss is Total Noise, the seething static of every particular thing and experience, and one’s total freedom of infinite choice about what to choose to attend to and represent and connect, and how, and why, etc.