The Best American Essays 1986

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If there is any literary form that beckons irresistibly to nearly every writer at one time or another, it is the essay.

The Best American Essays 1986 celebrates the essay in all its tremendous variety-from personal reminiscence to popular science. With selections from a wide range of popular periodicals and small publications, this inaugural volume features many eminent practitioners of the art alongside some fresh new voices just awaiting discovery.

Elizabeth Hardwick has chosen the essays here with a keen sense of their variety and enduring value. As eclectic as it is entertaining, The Best American Essays 1986 abounds with talent and vitality.

Elizabeth Hardwick is advisory editor of The New York Review of Books and the author of three collections of essays, as well as three novels, and she is the editor of The Selected Letters of William James.

Robert Atwan, who has edited many anthologies, is one of the editors of Harper American Literature. His reviews of poetry and fiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and other periodicals; and he has written critical essays on literature, psychology, and pop culture.


Contents


Foreword by Robert Atwan     ix

Introduction by Elizabeth Hardwick     xiii

Julian Barnes.     THE FOLLIES OF WRITER WORSHIP     1
   from The New York Times Book Review

Donald Barthelme.     NOT-KNOWING     9
   from The Georgia Review

Joseph Brodsky.     FLIGHT  FROM BYZANTIUM     25
   from The New Yorker

Alexander Cockburn.     HEATHERDOWN: A LATE IMPERIALIST MEMOIR     66
   from Grand Street

Gerald Early.     THE PASSING OF JAZZ'S OLD GUARD: REMEMBERING CHARLES MINGUS, THELONIOUS MONK, AND SONNY STITT     93
   from The Kenyon Review

Kai Erikson.     OF ACCIDENTAL JUDGMENTS AND CASUAL SLAUGHTERS     116
   from The Nation

Robert Fitzgerald.     WHEN THE COCKROACH STOOD BY THE MICKLE WOOD     130
   from The Yale Review

William Gass.     CHINA STILL LIFES     152
   from House & Garden

Stephen Jay Gould.     NASTY LITTLE FACTS     161
   from Natural History

Anne Hollander.     DRESSED TO THRILL     174
   from The New Republic

George F. Kennan.     MORALITY AND FOREIGN POLICY     188
   from Foreign Affairs

Joyce Carol Oates.     ON BOXING     204
   from The New York Times Magazine

Cynthia Ozick.     THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: WASHINGTON SQUARE, 1946     219
   from Harper's Magazine


Edward Rothstein.     THE BODY OF BACK     227
   from The New Republic


Frederick Turner.     VISIONS OF THE PACIFIC     240
   from Southwest Review


Gore Vidal.     ON ITALO CALVINO     254
   fromThe New York Review of Books

John Wain.     JULIA     268
   from The American Scholar


Biographical Notes     283

Notable Essays of 1985     287

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