The Best American Essays 1987

Edited and with an Introduction by Gay Talese
Robert Atwan, Series Editor

From Popular Mechanics to Audubon, from The New Criterion to The New Yorker, from Esquire to Ploughshares–the periodicals represented in The Best American Essays 1987 give fair indication of the terrific variety to be found within.

    Guest editor Gay Talese has made this year's selections with an eye toward the risky, the provocative, the unexpected. He has looked for well-known writers breaking old barriers, for young up-and-comers whose voices startle with their power. Here, then, are the most talked about, most important, most memorable essays of the year–essays that inform, amuse, provoke, and tug at the heart.

    Featured are John Gregory Dunne on novel writing, Robert Stone on cocaine, Richard Ben Cramer on Ted Williams, Phyllis Rose on tolls of torture, Gary Giddins on Jack Benny, and Tom Wolfe on invention in "the land of wizards." It's a banquet of spicy food for thought, compiled by a maverick chef.


Foreword by Robert Atwan    ix

Introduction by Gay Talese    xiii

JOHN BARTH.    Teacher    1
   from Harper's Magazine

RICHARD BEN CRAMER.    What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?    16
   from Esquire

JOHN GREGORY DUNNE.    On Writing a Novel    52
   from Esquire

GRETEL EHRLICH.    Spring    58
   from Antaeus

DANIEL MARK EPSTEIN.    The Case of Harry Houdini    70
   from The New Criterion

JOSEPH EPSTEIN.    They Said You Was High Class    85
   from The American Scholar

GARY GIDDINS.    "This Guy Wouldn't Give You the Parsley off His Fish"    101
   from The Grand Street

DONALD HALL.    Winter    116
   from Hood Museum of Art exhibition catalogue

PHILLIP LOPATE.    Against Joie de Vivre    131
   from Ploughshares

BARRY LOPEZ.    The Stone Horse    151
   from Antaeus

ELTING E. MORISON.    The Master Builder    162
   from American Heritage of Invention & Technology

WILLIAM PFAFF.    The Lay Intellectual (Apologia Pro Vita Sua)    172
   from Salmagundi

SAMUEL PICKERING, JR.    Pictures    181
   from The Southern Review

GREGOR VON REZZORI.    A Stranger in Lolitaland    197
   from Vanity Fair

PHYLLIS ROSE.    Tools of Torture: An Essay on Beauty and Pain    221
   from The Atlantic

SCOTT RUSSELL SANDERS.    The Inheritance of Tools    226
   from The North American Review

ROBERT STONE.    A Higher Horror of the Whiteness: Cocaine's Coloring of the American Psyche    235
   from Harper's Magazine

CALVIN TRILLIN.    Rumors Around Town    245
   from The New Yorker

GEOFFREY C. WARD.    Tiger in the Road!    269
   from Audubon

TOM WOLFE.    Land of Wizards    298
   from Popular Mechanics

Biographical Notes    315

Notable Essays of 1986    319

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