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The Best American Essays 2008 by Adam…

The Best American Essays 2008 (2008)

by Adam Gopnick (Editor), Robert Atwan (Editor)

Other authors: Robert Atwan (Foreword), Patricia Brieschke (Contributor), Rich Cohen (Contributor), Bernard Cooper (Contributor), Atul Gawande (Contributor)17 more, Albert Goldbarth (Contributor), Emily R. Grosholz (Contributor), Anthony Lane (Contributor), Jonathan Lethem (Contributor), Ariel Levy (Contributor), Jamal Mahjoub (Contributor), Louis Menand (Contributor), Ander Monson (Contributor), Rick Moody (Contributor), Hugh Raffles (Contributor), David Sedaris (Contributor), Sam Shaw (Contributor), Charles Simic (Contributor), Lauren Slater (Contributor), John Updike (Contributor), Joe Wenderoth (Contributor), Lee Zacharias (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Best American Essays (2008), Best American (2008)

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As always in a collection of magazine articles, some will be mysteriously uninteresting ("why did they pick that?"), some will be workman-good but forgettable, some will be memorable and worth marking for later re-reading, and if lucky one or two will be classic. While there were no classics in this issue, there were a couple that made the issue worthwhile.

The first essay is one of the toughest things I've read in a while, by Patricia Brieschke called "Cracking Open", it recounts the multiple surgeries her baby went through, all without anesthesia - until recently doctors believed babies feel no pain and operated with no pain killers of any kind. Her detailed descriptions of the babies clenched fists and whaling cries reminded me of watching a Holocaust documentary, not for the faint of heart, yet so very common. Barbaric, Jim.

"Becoming Adolf" by Rich Cohen is hilarious, fascinating and educational. It's the history of the "toothbrush" moustache that Hitler and Charlie Chaplin wore, how it came about, and why they wore it. Turns out it was an American style the Germans co-opted. It was a modern, uniform (industrial), dashing dandy compared to the long, wild moustaches of the 19th century. The writing is superb, I plan to seek out more by Cohen.

"Candid Camera" by Anthony Lane is a tribute to the Leica camera, made in Germany. I'd heard of this legendary camera, but didn't know why it was so revered - now I know. I want one so bad it hurts. This article may end up costing me a lot of money.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2011 cc-by-nd ( )
1 vote Stbalbach | Apr 6, 2011 |
I wasn't sure I was even going to read this collection, but Adam Gopnik's introduction sucked me in. Semi-committed, I proceeded to get bowled over by Patricia Brieschke's essay, which was perhaps the saddest thing I've ever read, and then righted again by humor with Richard Cohen's essay about the Hitler/toothbrush mustache. A great collection overall. [full review ] ( )
1 vote markflanagan | Jul 21, 2010 |
One of the more consistently engaging volumes in the series. Some of this year's selections push the boundaries of the essay: Ander Monson, Solipsism (on the relationship between typesetting medium and the message); and Jonathan Lethan, The Ecstasy of Influence (on plagiarism). A number of essays explore an uncanny or darker side of human nature: David Sedaris, This Old House (a sort of post-college Fall of the House of Usher); Sam Shaw, Run Like Fire Once More (on ultra-long distance running); Joe Wenderoth, Where God is Glad (on a gritty strip club); and Lee Zacharias, Buzzard (on vultures, but also about her uneasy relationship with her father). Few essays in this collection are uplifting, but most were moving, striking, or interesting. ( )
  bezoar44 | Jan 31, 2010 |
The essays in this book were pretty solid over all. Those that stood out as particularly good included:

Bernard Cooper's "The Constant Gardener," about learning to live with his long-term partner's advancing AIDS

Albert Goldbarth's "Everybody's Nickname," about midcentury science fiction and the unity of two selves.

Ariel Levy's "The Lesbian Bride's Handbook," about choosing a dress in a wedding where tradition and non-conformity are pulling in all directions.

Lee Zacharias's "Buzzards," about the various groups of birds known as vultures. ( )
  chellerystick | Aug 16, 2009 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gopnick, AdamEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Atwan, RobertEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Atwan, RobertForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brieschke, PatriciaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cohen, RichContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooper, BernardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gawande, AtulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goldbarth, AlbertContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grosholz, Emily R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lane, AnthonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lethem, JonathanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Levy, ArielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mahjoub, JamalContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Menand, LouisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Monson, AnderContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Moody, RickContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Raffles, HughContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sedaris, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shaw, SamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Simic, CharlesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Slater, LaurenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Updike, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wenderoth, JoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Zacharias, LeeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lacombe, BrigitteCover Photographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moisan, ChristopherCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618983228, Paperback)

Here you will find the finest essays “judiciously selected from countless publications” (Chicago Tribune), ranging from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Swink and Pinch. In his introduction to this year’s edition, Adam Gopnik finds that great essays have “text and inner text, personal story and larger point, the thing you’re supposed to be paying attention to and some other thing you’re really interested in.” David Sedaris’s quirky, hilarious account of a childhood spent yearning for a home where history was properly respected is also a poignant rumination on surviving the passage of time. In “The Ecstasy of Influence,” Jonathan Lethem ponders the intriguing phenomenon of cryptomnesia: a person believes herself to be creating something new but is really recalling similar, previously encountered work. Ariel Levy writes in “The Lesbian Bride’s Handbook” of her efforts to plan a party that accurately reflects her lifestyle (which she notes is “not black-tie!”) as she confronts head-on what it means to be married. And Lauren Slater is off to “Tripp Lake,” recounting the one summer she spent at camp—a summer of color wars, horseback riding, and the “wild sadness” that settled in her when she was away from home.
In the end, Gopnik believes that the only real ambition of an essayist is to be a master of our common life. This latest installment of The Best American Essays is full of writing that reveals, in Gopnik’s words, “the breath of things as they are.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:11 -0400)

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