The Best American Essays 2016

Edited and with an Introduction by Jonathan Franzen
Robert Atwan, Series Editor

A TRUE ESSAY is "something hazarded, not definitive, not authoritative; something ventured on the basis of the author's personal experience and subjectivity," writes guest editor Jonathan Franzen in his introduction. However, his main criterion for selecting The Best American Essays 2016 was, in a word, risk. Whether the risks involved championing an unpopular opinion, the possibility or ruining a professional career, or irrevocably offending family, for Franzen, "the writer has to be like the firefighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames, is to run straight into them."

Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Introduction copyright © 2016 by Jonathan Franzen
ISBN 978-0-544-81210-9


Foreword by Robert Atwan     ix

Introduction by Jonathan Franzen     xv

   from Ploughshares

   from Guernica

CHARLES COMEY   Against Honeymoons   27
   from The Point

PAUL CRENSHAW   Names   37
   from Hobart

JAQUIRA DÍAZ   Ordinary Girls   40
   from The Kenyon Review

IRINA DUMITRESCU   My Father and The Wine   56
   from The Yale Review

ELA HARRISON   My Heart Lies Between “The Fleet” and “All the Ships”   69
   from The Georgia Review

SEBASTIAN JUNGER   The Bonds of Battle   85
   from Vanity Fair

LAURA KIPNIS   Sexual Paranoia   103 
   from The Chronicle Review

JORDAN KISNER   Thin Places   117
   from n+1

AMITAVA KUMAR   Pyre   138
   from Granta

RICHARD M. LANGE   Of Human Carnage   148
   from Catamaran

LEE MARTIN   Bastards   161
   from The Georgia Review

LISA NIKOLIDAKIS   Family Tradition   171
   from Southern Indiana Review

JOYCE CAROL OATES   The Lost Sister: An Elegy   185
   from Narrative Magazine

MARSHA POMERANTZ   Right/Left: A Triptych   203
   from Raritan

JILL SISSON QUINN   Big Night   213
   from New England Review

JUSTIN PHILLIP REED   Killing Like They Do in the Movies   231
   from Catapult

OLIVER SACKS   A General Feeling of Disorder   242
   from The New York Review of Books

KATHERINE E. STANDEFER   In Praise of Contempt   249
   from The Iowa Review

GEORGE STEINER   The Eleventh Commandment   260
   from Salmagundi

MASON STOKES   Namesake   274
   from Colorado Review

THOMAS CHATTERTON WILLIAMS   Black and Blue and Blond   290
from The Virginia Quarterly Review

Contributors’ Notes   303

Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2015   309

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