The Next American Essay


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Graywolf Press


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1555973752

9781555973759

488 Pages

$20.00

CAD23.00

Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
In this wide-ranging, inclusive, and refreshingly singular anthology, noted essayist John D'Agata offers a literary tour of lyric essays written by many contemporary American masters of the craft. Beginning with 1975 and John McPhee's ingenious piece, "The Search for Marvin Gardens," D'Agata selects an example of creative nonfiction for each subsequent year (and in one case, two examples). These writings are unrestrained, elusive, explosive, and mysterious; they encompass and illuminate culture, myth, history, romance, and sex. Each essay in this hefty collection is, in fact, a world of its own, a world so distinctive it resists definition.

The Next American Essay will both challenge and invigorate all students and scholars of American literary modernism—and, indeed, postmodernism.

REVIEWS

Praise for The Next American Essay

"From the living Monopoly game (in an essay by John McPhee) to a set of unattended ghostly footnotes, from the Joan Didion elegy to the Anne Carson fantasia, this book shows what the essay is and what, with any luck, it will be. The collection is full of pleasures and surprises, the most stunning of which is the ongoing essay by D'Agata himself—he transforms a mere anthology into the living biography of an art form."—Michael Silverblatt, creator, producer, and host of public radio's "Bookworm"

"A sometimes challenging anthology that expands the usual definition of essay."—Kirkus Reviews

"D'Agata avows love of the diversity of the essay form, and it is palpable on every page of this unique, esoteric, beautiful book. He tells the reader that he first became enamored of essays when his mother read him the news of the day while he was still in her womb. It is this kind of fantastic, myth-making perspective that runs through each entry of this anthology, whose contributors include such master essayists as John McPhee, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Annie Dillard. Hopping from one genre to another—biography, poetry, philosophy, travel writing, memoir—D'Agata makes the point that the essay is not just one form of writing but can be every form of writing . . . [Many of D'Agata's] choices convey the wondrously infinite possibilities of the essay form. Standouts include 'Unguided Tour,' Sontag's cranky philosophical dialogue with her inner self; 'Life Story,' David Shields's string of aphorisms composed entirely of bumper sticker slogans; 'Ticket to the Fair,' David Foster Wallace's colorful, compassionate tour of the Illinois State Fair; and 'The Body,' Jenny Boully's postmodern pastiche of autobiographical (or not) footnotes. D'Agata's idea of an essay—or lyric essay, as he comes to call these writings—conflates both art and fact, blurring the line between objectivity and subjectivity. The lyric essay, he says, has a 'kind of logic that wants to sing.' Readers, listen up, then: here is a book that makes some beautiful music."—Publishers Weekly

"D'Agata, a poet, journalist, and writer of creative nonfiction, has selected 32 pieces from such authors as Joan Didion, John McPhee, Albert Goldbarth, Lydia Davis, Annie Dillard, and Sherman Alexie . . . For each year (1975-2003), he has chosen and introduced an essay, commenting on world events that year and how the essay in question developed . . . [His] essay choices are thoughtful and his commentary interesting."—Library Journal

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

John D'Agata is the author Halls of Fame. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he holds M.F.A.s in both nonfiction and poetry and is currently editor of lyric essays for Seneca Review.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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  • John D'Agata is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop with MFA degrees in both nonfiction and poetry. He is currently editor of lyric essays for Seneca Review.
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