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The Best American Essays 2014 (2014)

by John Jeremiah Sullivan(Favorite Author)
3.4 of 5 Votes: 3
0544309901 (ISBN13: 9780544309906)
Mariner Books
review 1: This was the first book I read in 2015. A friend gave me this collection as a get-well-soon present, and what an interesting choice to give to someone who is ill! I read half the collection in one go, and every story deals with someone who is dying, has recently died, is terrified of dying, wants to die, or wishes others were dead. Wow. The introductory essay is perfectly awful--tedious to the point of soporific--but the collection is otherwise terrific.
review 2: I like to look for trends in award-winning nonfiction, and my my, aren't there some trends in this edition. Two essays feature well-known male nonfiction writers revealing that they were childhood victims of sexual abuse (Barry Lopez and Chris Offutt). Two essays are "Letters from" places in NYC, wi
... moreth their titles actually using the "Letter From" format. Two are the tried-and-true gambit of "skeptical writer goes on assignment to report on a bizarre subculture, hilarity ensues" (Leslie Jamison at a freaky medical conference; Wells Tower at Burning Man). And a few essays slam you to the ground (in a good way) with their unabashed demolition of language rules, their gutsy phrasing, slang, and voice (Lawrence Jackson's "Slickheads" is like nothing I've ever read; Wells Towers' Burning Man essay also does this, as he deconstructs the brilliant lingo unique to Burning Man). This bit-of-a-rut tendency for similar essays is why I gave the collection three stars instead of four. JJS claims in the intro that he's trying to put together a vast sampling of essays, but I don't think he did at all.I must agree with what my retired friend Mary said when she stopped reading the collection after a few essays: "It's too depressing." It almost is. Between the pedophilia and deaths of loved ones, this is not a joyous collection. Even Zadie Smith's "Joy" is not so uplifting. There is no rule that says that BAE has to provide us with an uproariously fine read once a year. But this year's collection is not a light foray by any means. It is a serious collection that certainly contains many outstanding essays, but they are limited in topic and tone. Read with caution; no lifeguard on duty with this one. less
Reviews (see all)
overall 3.5 stars, but there were a few noteworthy 4 star essays included and none less than 3
Favorites this year: Gornick, Levy, Li, Tallent
underwhelming all around
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