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A monumental, canon-defining anthology of three centuries of American essays, from Cotton Mather and Benjamin Franklin to David Foster Wallace and Zadie Smith.
Many of the essays Phillip Lopate has gathered here address themselves--sometimes critically--to American values, but even in those that don't, one can detect a subtext about being American. The Founding Fathers and early American writers self-consciously struggle to establish a recognizable national culture. The shining stars of the mid-nineteenth-century American Renaissance no longer lack confidence but face new reckonings with the oppression of blacks and women. The New World tradition of nature writing runs from Audubon, Thoreau, and John Muir to Rachel Carson and Annie Dillard. Marginalized groups in all periods use the essay to assert or to complicate notions of identity. Lopate has cast his net intentionally wide, embracing critical, personal, political, philosophical, humorous, literary, polemical, and autobiographical essays, and making room for sermons, letters, speeches, and columns dealing with a wide variety of subjects. Americans by birth as well as immigrants appear here, famous essayists alongside writers more celebrated for fiction or poetry. The result is an extensive overview of the endless riches of the American essay.
Phillip Lopate is the author of To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction and of four essay collections, Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Portrait Inside My Head. He is the editor of the anthologies The Art of the Personal Essay, Writing New York, and American Movie Critics. He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and two New York Foundation for the Arts grants. He is professor of writing at Columbia University's nonfiction MFA program, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Rivka Galchen is an award winning fiction writer and journalist, whose work appears often in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The London Review of Books and The New York Times. She is the author of three books: Atmospheric Disturbances (Novel, FSG, 2008), American Innovations (Short Stories, FSG 2014) and Little Labors (Essays, New Directions, 2016). She has received numerous prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Fellowship, The Berlin Prize and The William J Saroyan International Prize in Fiction. In 2010, she was named to The New Yorker’s list of 20 Writers Under 40. Galchen also holds an MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine.