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The Best American Essays of the Century by…

The Best American Essays of the Century

by Joyce Carol Oates (Editor, Contributor & Introduction), Robert Atwan (Editor & Foreword)

Other authors: Henry Adams (Contributor), Jane Addams (Contributor), James Agee (Contributor), Maya Angelou (Contributor), James Baldwin (Contributor)53 more, Saul Bellow (Contributor), Randolph Bourne (Contributor), Rachel Carson (Contributor), John Jay Chapman (Contributor), Joan Didion (Contributor), Annie Dillard (Contributor), W.E.B. Du Bois (Contributor), Gerald Early (Contributor), Gretel Ehrlich (Contributor), Loren Eiseley (Contributor), T.S. Elliot (Contributor), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Contributor), Robert Frost (Contributor), William H. Gass (Contributor), Stephen Jay Gould (Contributor), Donald Hall (Contributor), Elizabeth Hardwick (Contributor), Ernest Hemingway (Contributor), Michael Herr (Contributor), Edward Hoagland (Contributor), Langston Hughes (Contributor), Zora Neale Hurston (Contributor), William James (Contributor), Garrison Keillor (Contributor), Martin Luther King, Jr. (Contributor), Maxine Hong Kingston (Contributor), Peter Kovner (Contributor), Jon Krakauer (Contributor), William Manchester (Contributor), Mary McCarthy (Contributor), John McPhee (Contributor), H.L. Mencken (Contributor), N. Scott Momaday (Contributor), John Muir (Contributor), Vladimir Nabokov (Contributor), Kathleen Norris (Contributor), Cynthia Ozick (Contributor), S.J. Perelman (Contributor), Katherine Anne Porter (Contributor), Adrienne Rich (Contributor), Richard Rodriguez (Contributor), Susan Sontag (Contributor), Gertrude Stein (Contributor), Lewis Thomas (Contributor), James Thurber (Contributor), Mark Twain (Contributor), John Updike (Contributor), Alice Walker (Contributor), Eudora Welty (Contributor), E.B. White (Contributor), Edmund Wilson (Contributor), Tom Wolfe (Contributor), Richard Wright (Contributor)

Series: The Best American Essays (20th Century), Best American (20th Century)

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Showing 4 of 4
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.") ( )
1 vote SeriousGrace | Apr 9, 2009 |
What makes this collection the best of essays is that Oates takes care to identify those essays that speak to the historical, political, and personal experience of America in the 20th century. In this collection you'll find Eliot, Hurston, Fitzgerald, McCarthy, Baldwin, King, Kingston, Didion, Nabokov, Updike, Bellow, Rich and more. She shys away from nothing. I could find nothing missing. There are books that we buy and gobble up and there are those that we savour. You'll do both with this collection. I always have it close at hand. When I need to be reminded of how an essay reads in a masters voice, I pick up Oates' collection. ( )
1 vote AnitaDTaylor | Oct 28, 2007 |
Also not read in its entirety, but ongoing inspiration. ( )
  davidbain | May 4, 2006 |
What I read was certainly good. I dunno about "best of the century" though, really... ( )
  bluedream |
Showing 4 of 4
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Oates, Joyce CarolEditor, Contributor & Introductionprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Atwan, RobertEditor & Forewordmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Adams, HenryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Addams, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Agee, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Angelou, MayaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baldwin, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bellow, SaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bourne, RandolphContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carson, RachelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chapman, John JayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Didion, JoanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dillard, AnnieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Du Bois, W.E.B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Early, GeraldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ehrlich, GretelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eiseley, LorenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Elliot, T.S.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, F. ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Frost, RobertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gass, William H.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gould, Stephen JayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hall, DonaldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hardwick, ElizabethContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hemingway, ErnestContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Herr, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hoagland, EdwardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hughes, LangstonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hurston, Zora NealeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
James, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keillor, GarrisonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
King, Martin Luther, Jr.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kingston, Maxine HongContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kovner, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Krakauer, JonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Manchester, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCarthy, MaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McPhee, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mencken, H.L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Momaday, N. ScottContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Muir, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nabokov, VladimirContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Norris, KathleenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ozick, CynthiaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Perelman, S.J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Porter, Katherine AnneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rich, AdrienneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rodriguez, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sontag, SusanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Stein, GertrudeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thomas, LewisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thurber, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Twain, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Updike, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Walker, AliceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Welty, EudoraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
White, E.B.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilson, EdmundContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wright, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Fifty years ago, when I was a boy of fifteen and helping to inhabit a Missourian village on the banks of the Mississippi, I had a friend whose society was very dear to me because I was forbidden by my mother to partake of it.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618155872, Paperback)

The title The Best American Essays of the Century seems transparent enough, but don't be deceived. What Joyce Carol Oates has assembled is not so much a diverse collection as a sonorous march through what keeps getting called the American century. Read this not as a collection to dip into but as a history--a history of race in America. Oates says it best herself in her introduction: "It can't be an accident that essays in this volume by men and women of ethnic minority backgrounds are outstanding; to paraphrase Melville, to write a 'mighty' work of prose you must have a 'mighty' theme." The mighty pens at work here belong to, among others, Zora Neale Hurston ("How It Feels to Be Colored Me"), Langston Hughes ("Bop"), and James Baldwin ("Notes of a Native Son"). Oates has opted not for the most unexpected but for the most important and stirring essays of our time.

Other chords sound repeatedly as well: the problem of our relationship with nature (Annie Dillard, John Muir, and Gretel Ehrlich); the difficulty of identity in disrupted times (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joan Didion, and Michael Herr). In her essay "The White Album," Didion famously declares: "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." The stories Oates has collected are not easy. Here is the hard-won truth, from writers unwilling to forgive even themselves. Even Martin Luther King Jr. doesn't let himself off the hook, as he writes in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail": "If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me." --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:26 -0400)

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Fifty five unforgettable essays by the finest American writers of the twentieth century.

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