David Brooks Best Essays Of 2012

David Brooks Best Essays Of 2012-42
(The pieces in the book were published in 2011, and readers will recognize some of them, including Jose Antonio Vargas’s blockbuster “Outlaw,” in which he announced that he is an undocumented immigrant.) Although the book contains many very good individual essays, it offers little hope for the essay as a genre. His ideas about selfhood are no longer as convincing as they were during Brooks’s golden age and before.The most interesting pieces apparently draw their energy from a secret anxiety of the authors, who seem to be wondering if maybe it’s time to give up the whole essay-writing racket for good. Most of the essays in this book explore the dissolution of the self, a result of sexuality, insanity, senility, or the use and abuse of substances (which are everywhere in this collection—the antidepressant Zyprexa appears in two pieces).

(The pieces in the book were published in 2011, and readers will recognize some of them, including Jose Antonio Vargas’s blockbuster “Outlaw,” in which he announced that he is an undocumented immigrant.) Although the book contains many very good individual essays, it offers little hope for the essay as a genre. His ideas about selfhood are no longer as convincing as they were during Brooks’s golden age and before.The most interesting pieces apparently draw their energy from a secret anxiety of the authors, who seem to be wondering if maybe it’s time to give up the whole essay-writing racket for good. Most of the essays in this book explore the dissolution of the self, a result of sexuality, insanity, senility, or the use and abuse of substances (which are everywhere in this collection—the antidepressant Zyprexa appears in two pieces).

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The collection’s contributors turn repeatedly to the problem of selfhood, which has been a recurring theme in American essays since Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.” In part, “Self-Reliance” is a statement of Emerson’s own aspirations as an essayist. Some writers struggle to contain this process of disintegration.

“The highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton,” writes Emerson, “is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought.” His ideal man “would utter opinions on all passing affairs” that “would sink like darts into the ears of men, and put them in fear.” In his introduction to Best American Essays, Brooks writes that Emerson’s “narcissistic self-reliance shtick is demonstrably bad advice and pseudomacho show,” and much of the collection responds to Emerson’s ideas about individuality. Sandra Tsing Loh’s essay on menopause is gregarious and gossipy: With that, she smeared the tiniest dot of clear estrogen gel on the inside of my wrist, and even though she said it would take a few weeks to take effect, I instantly felt high!

Brooks goes on to write, “The essay hit a bad patch for a little while.

Yet today I think it’s coming back.” That may be true, but not on the evidence of the collection he has assembled. All the same, the Emersonians in Best American Essays are in the minority.

Wallace, Franzen argues, took his own life after suffocating in the selfhood he explored so thoroughly and cultivated so memorably in prose.

Decades after the end of Brooks’s golden age, Wallace’s idiosyncratic style gave him the freedom to write monumental essays on grandly intellectual topics: language and democracy in “Tense Present,” what it means to live well in “Consider the Lobster.” Yet Franzen, confronting Wallace’s eventual suicide, concludes that self-reliance is unsustainable, whether in life or in prose.

The Best American Series®First, Best, and Best-Selling The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction.

Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites.

She is growing forgetful, and the essay is little more than the repetition of one conversation, with slight variations: “My husband? His experiment indicates just how far essays can explore the relationships among the people in them before they begin to turn into something else.

The exhaustive self-examination that characterizes much of Best American Essays often makes for great writing, to be sure, but somehow it doesn’t seem like a mode of composition that will stay interesting forever.

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