The Best American Essays 2010
October 13, 2010 2:33 PM   Subscribe

The Best American Essays, 2010, edited by Christopher Hitchens. Many of the essays can be found online:

     The Murder of Leo Tolstoy [pdf] by Elif Batuman from Harper's 

     The Bad Lion by Toni Bentley from The New York Review of Books 

     The Dead Book by Jane Churchon from The Sun 

     Irreconcilable Dissonance by Brian Doyle from Oregon Humanities 

     The Elegant Eyeball by John Gamel from Alaska Quarterly Review 

     How Einstein Divided America's Jews by Walter Isaacson from The Atlantic 

     Lunching on Olympus by Steven L. Isenberg from The American Scholar 

     "Me, Myself, and I" by Jane Kramer from The New Yorker 

     When Writers Speak by Arthur Krystal from The New York Times Book Review 

     A Rake's Progress by Matt Labash from The Weekly Standard 

     "Brooklyn the Unknowable" by Phillip Lopate from Harvard Review 

     On John Updike by Ian Mcewan from The New York Review of Books 

     My Genome, My Self by Steven Pinker from The New York Times Magazine 

     "Gyromancy" by Ron Rindo from The Gettysburg Review 

     Guy Walks Into a Bar Car by David Sedaris from The New Yorker 

     Speaking in Tongues by Zadie Smith from The New York Review of Books 

     Rediscovering Central Asia [pdf] by S. Frederick Starr from Wilson Quarterly 

     Gettysburg Regress by John Summers from The New Republic 

     "Fatheralong" by John Edgar Wideman from Harper's 

     Daredevil by Garry Wills from The Atlantic 

     "A Fine Range" by James Wood from The New Yorker 
posted by craniac (36 comments total) 159 users marked this as a favorite
Note: I tried to link to either the author's home page, or a page that linked to more of their work, or failing that, a link to an interview with the author that looked interesting.
posted by craniac at 2:38 PM on October 13, 2010

Many thanks for assembling these links!
posted by chaff at 2:38 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sent to Read It Later, thanks!
posted by dragonplayer at 2:50 PM on October 13, 2010

Great post. I guess I'm going to have to institute "Instapaper Zero" along with Inbox Zero...
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:51 PM on October 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Love these posts! Thank you.
posted by Scarf Face at 2:51 PM on October 13, 2010

Yes, thanks for the links. I definitely agree with the sentiments expressed in "When Writers Speak," whether or not it is actually one of the 'best' American Essays.
posted by misha at 2:53 PM on October 13, 2010

Welp, there goes everything else I was going to do! Thanks!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:53 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Solid gold in there. From the Marion Barry profile by Matt Labash:

Scribes at the Washington City Paper, who still enjoy riding Barry like the village Zipcar...
posted by letitrain at 2:54 PM on October 13, 2010

Thank you for this great post.

Alas, the Harper's link is nonfunctional.
posted by blucevalo at 2:56 PM on October 13, 2010

The Dead Book by Jane Churchon from The Sun

For a moment, I was delighted to see Britain's favourite tabloid getting some long overdue highbrow attention.
posted by rhymer at 3:03 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

re: the Harper's link. You're probably using Firefox, and every time you click on that link, you're downloading the PDF to your "downloads" folder. I may be wrong. Try right-clicking on the link and select "save link as" or install one of the free pdf viewer addons that will auto-open pdfs for you instead of hiding them in Siberia.

In other news, is there a name for the syndrome where every activity you engage in eventually turns into a tech support call? I am guilty of both being both a dealer and a user in this scenario, of course
posted by craniac at 3:21 PM on October 13, 2010


(Also, nice post.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:22 PM on October 13, 2010

Favorited hard.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:25 PM on October 13, 2010

“So a nun goes into town,” he said, “and sees a sign reading, ‘Quickies—Twenty-five Dollars.’ Not sure what it means, she walks back to the convent and pulls aside the mother superior. ‘Excuse me,’ she asks, ‘but what’s a quickie?’

“And the old lady goes, ‘Twenty-five dollars. Just like in town.’”
posted by clorox at 3:49 PM on October 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't read David Sedaris's 'non-fiction' any more without being distracted, every couple sentences, by the thought, There's another thing that never happened. I'm no purist when it comes to memoirs being 100% truthful, but I just don't believe him any more. He's undoubtedly a good writer -- I wish he'd find a way out of his (very profitable) non-non-fiction cul-de-sac. I'll keep reading him in the hope that he does.
posted by Zerowensboring at 3:56 PM on October 13, 2010

Thanks for all those links.
posted by cazoo at 3:57 PM on October 13, 2010

Also, if there are any past or present New Yorker fact-checkers out there...spill it. As a former fact-checker, I've always been curious about what it's like checking one of his articles. For example: was it anything like the time I fact-checked a James Frey excerpt?
posted by Zerowensboring at 4:09 PM on October 13, 2010

How have I lived 46 years and never before heard this joke (from Sedaris):

“A fried-egg sandwich walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender looks him up and down, then goes, ‘Sorry, we don’t serve food here.’ ”
posted by dzaz at 4:17 PM on October 13, 2010

Heh. Sedaris is the first one I read, too.
posted by bz at 4:44 PM on October 13, 2010

I believe Sedaris's choking air of self-loathing provides all the fact-checking needed.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 5:54 PM on October 13, 2010

The Murder of Leo Tolstoy - 'Sorry—that full-sized image of the page is only available to Harper's Magazine subscribers'.
The Murder of Leo Tolstoy

The Bad Lion - 'This article is available to subscribers only'.

Rediscovering Central Asia - 'Sorry, but we can't find requested PDF. The requested file is available at this link only for 10 minutes.
Rediscovering Central Asia

Thanks for the instapaper fodder, craniac.
posted by unliteral at 6:18 PM on October 13, 2010

Sorry about the broken links. I put this together on campus and I guess our IP address registers us as subscribers.
posted by craniac at 6:37 PM on October 13, 2010

*makes another note to buy Best American Comics 2010*
posted by Sys Rq at 6:47 PM on October 13, 2010

Pleased to see all the NYRB, especially the lion one. When our New Yorker gift subscription lapsed my husband got me NYRB and it was even more fantastic than people told me it'd be. Still don't like Harper's or the Atlantic much though, I confess. And still really miss The New Yorker, sigh...
posted by ifjuly at 7:02 PM on October 13, 2010

I've read some of these already and it strikes me as though the easier ones to read are mostly in the line between a short story and an essay, does anyone else feel the same? How is this so? Is it just the problem with non-fiction (whatever that is)?
posted by omegar at 7:06 PM on October 13, 2010

Too busy reading to comment; Flagged as fantastic.
posted by TedW at 7:09 PM on October 13, 2010

How many of us will actually read them all? Or will we just post comments about how we'll eventually read these? You there! Dear reader of this comment: are you going to read these essays or just pretend you will? Will the bookmark, the favorite, collect dust just like all those books on your shelves? Just like those books you will some day read, or so you say. Will you read ever them? Will you ever read these essays? Well... there is only one way to find out.

As for myself, I already know I won't be reading any of these. I got shit to pretend to do.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:41 PM on October 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

@12-2 Many of these are just two pages long. So there's that.
posted by mecran01 at 7:15 AM on October 14, 2010

Is anyone else left wondering if the guy in that Sedaris piece is this guy? The age is a year off, but otherwise...
posted by Sys Rq at 8:46 AM on October 14, 2010

I read "The Murder of Leo Tolstoy" a couple weeks ago. Really enjoyed it.
posted by dnash at 9:26 AM on October 14, 2010

The Marion Barry piece is absolutely awesome. Highly recommended. Terrific post.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:24 PM on October 14, 2010

The Murder of Leo Tolstoy entertained me a lot--especially when the scholars ventured into Chekhov's territory.

I read Zadie Smith's essay next. She has a point about the ability to take in multiple viewpoints being an asset.
posted by dragonplayer at 2:03 PM on October 14, 2010

A woman of my acquaintance told me she was going to take nursing classes so she could cuddle the babies, whenever she wanted. She should read The Dead Book.

When I was in college, I wrote about the work of E.M. Forster without any real sense of who he was outside his books. So Lunching on Olympus was delightful.

Also, I read the portion of The Bad Lion that was available and I want to find out what happened.

I'll see if the local library will be willing to order a copy of the essays book.
posted by dragonplayer at 6:23 AM on October 17, 2010

Irreconcilable Dissonance reminds me to dust the SDF-1 and check the flashlight for batteries every so often.
posted by dragonplayer at 6:34 AM on October 17, 2010

I swear I posted this yesterday, but must have forgotten to hit the button. Anyway, I found "The Elegant Eye" on John Gamel's site, along with a lot of other good essays on medicine. Well worth poking around to see his other essays; I'm surprised I hadn't come across him before.
posted by TedW at 12:53 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Although I skipped the ones that were paywalled, and a few others that with topics that didn't resonate with me at all, the Tolstoy one, Speaking in Tongues, and Daredevil each struck a chord.
Speaking in Tongues was especially resonant for me, though I would have liked if the author touched on the idea that speaking multiple languages produces in us an even more pronounced multiplicity of self than simply having multiple accents.
posted by delackner at 9:09 PM on October 18, 2010

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