But there’s no need to quibble. This is fine, fine reading.

THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2001

The well-known poet and memoirist presents the 16th installment in this flawless series.

Last year’s millennial edition may have been the best ever. Edited by Alan Lightman, it took a philosophical turn, pondering 21st-century issues of technology and dehumanization; particularly striking were Andrew Sullivan’s wrenching essay on hate crimes and Wendell Berry’s passionate case for small farms. Under Norris’s guidance, the new compendium is more literary, with an evident preference for creative nonfiction. Jeffrey Heiman’s “Vin Laforge,” about a little town in the Berkshires as seen through one old man’s memories, could as easily be called a short story—a sly essay of the kind Ring Lardner might have written. The same is true of Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Blue Machinery of Summer,” a Vietnam veteran’s reminiscences of the factory jobs he held upon his return from the war. Eight out of 26 pieces are from only two publications, The American Scholar and the perennially dominating New Yorker. One of the selections from the latter may be the best of the best: Marcus Laffey’s broodingly ironic essay on police work in the Bronx after midnight, “The Midnight Tour.” The star-author entry is also from the New Yorker, Stephen King’s “On Impact,” about the his accident while jogging (he was hit by a van) and difficult recovery. There’s some literary criticism—James Campbell’s entertaining snippet on Robert Louis Stevenson as a travel-writer—and a roundup of grief literature, including “The Work of Mourning,” Francine Du Plessix Gray’s meditation on the death of her father. Though William T. Vollman plays with form a bit (“Upside Down and Backward”), these are mostly traditional essays. In the current fashion, they shy away from grandiose pronouncements and booming conclusions.

But there’s no need to quibble. This is fine, fine reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-618-15358-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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