New: Book Report: The Best American Essays 2006

It's a collection of essays, not in any particular field. Apparently essayists, when they aren't writing about something in particular--uhm, apparently, they tend to write about themselves. Or else the editor of this collection likes that sort of thing. There were a bunch of slice-of-life-ish autobio pieces in here. "Personal essays" might be the phrase I'm looking for. I like autobiography and slice-of-life bits just fine... but the authors of these pieces weren't grizzled adventurers living lives of derring-do. They were, uhm, essayists: authors, college professors. I didn't finish reading some of these.

Getting past the griping, I liked a few of these essays nonetheless. Emily Bernard's "Teaching the N-Word" explores language, racism, and culture. Susan Orlean's "Lost Dog" was a good story, but it was a good story back when I first read it in The New Yorker, too. "George", by Sam Pickering, was good, but sad. "Group Grief" by Lily Tuck was good, but sad. It's good that these authors are able to find a silver lining in their tragic lives by using them as material for essays.

Still, I don't just want to read sad slices of life. Not too many in a row, anyhow. Especially when they're lives of bookish folks; those strike kind of close to home.

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Posted 2009-04-28