Nowadays, people, including me, don't have the concentration and gluteal patience to sit down and finish a book: "a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers". If the pages are numerous enough to be "glued or sewn" to be bound together, no thanks. Our millennial brains weren't trained to handle such monstrosity. If you want me to finish reading something, hand me a few sheets of paper at tops, single-sided and few enough so I can staple them even with the stapler I bought at Daiso. And are there literary works like that? Yes, Sir. The literary essays.
I was introduced to the genre of the literary essay in 2010, in English 315, The Literary Essay class, at Towson University in Maryland. Prior to that, I read and wrote works in that genre, but only known them as "nonfiction" or just "essays" (the boring version of essays of an unenlightened mind, now that the term essays feels more dear to me). And the joy of reading and trying to write them was learned through two required books assigned by Professor Holly Sneeringer, The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present and The Best American Essays 2009. The Anthology show me, wow, people from the past really got this genre down. And even though they were the stories from the past, they didn't feel old or ancient. Because even back then, life was life. And The Best American Essays show me, wow, even after 2,000 years since Seneca, there's still more to write about life.
As an essay reader and writer, I like The Best American Essays Series because if someone can say something is the best, they must have some confidence in what they publish, especially if they've been doing it for more than 30 years. And if that is so, as a writer who wants to be a published essayist someday, I wanted to learn from the best.
Now, welcome to this blog. If you read this far, you should know that this isn't a blog created by the Series' publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This blog is just my personal companion for reading The Best American Essays Series. It is a companion that helps me to organize things I find in the Series to help me answer some of the questions:
- How does the publisher describe the featured writers? What accomplishments are highlighted, such as some of the awards they received?
- What is the publication that published the most essays selected for the Series?
- Who is the essayist selected the most in the Series?
- If a writer was featured on the series more than one time, how did that author's biography change over the years?
Also on this blog you will find book descriptions readily available from the back cover of each book, along with the table of contents containing the titles, the essayists, and the original publication where the essays were originally featured. And whenever possible, I will try to put link to the actual essays if they are available for free on the original publishers' websites. And for some of the essays, sadly, you will find that the original publishers have went out of business.
So Paul, I hope you enjoy this blog for what it has to offer, and I hope you fully enjoy the art of literary essays. In the future, one by one, you should write responses to every essay featured on the series. Because you never know, someone may be dreading reading these essays late at night, just because they are assigned to read them. Your response maybe helpful to them, and if you ease the burden of completing assignment, they may be freed to see the joy of reading essays as you did.
But until then, read an essay today. Essays will turn your life's happenings to meanings.