Best Essayists 2015

“Writing an essay is like catching a wave,” posits guest editor Ariel Levy. “To catch a wave, you need skill and nerve, not just moving water.” This year’s writers are certainly full of nerve, and have crafted a wide range of pieces awash in a diversity of moods, voices, and stances. Leaving an abusive marriage, parting with a younger self, losing your sanity to Fitbit, an“Writing an essay is like catching a wave,” posits guest editor Ariel Levy. “To catch a wave, you need skill and nerve, not just moving water.” This year’s writers are certainly full of nerve, and have crafted a wide range of pieces awash in a diversity of moods, voices, and stances. Leaving an abusive marriage, parting with a younger self, losing your sanity to Fitbit, and even saying goodbye to a beloved pair of pants imbued with meaning are all unified by the daring of their creation. As Levy notes, “Writing around an idea you think is worthwhile—an idea you suspect is an insight—requires real audacity.”

The Best American Essays 2015 includes
Hilton Als, Roger Angell, Justin Cronin, Meghan Daum, Anthony Doerr, Margo Jefferson, David Sedaris, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit and others

ARIEL LEVY, guest editor, has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2008. She received the National Magazine Award for essays and criticism for her piece “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” which she is expanding into a book for Random House. Female Chauvinist Pigs, Levy’s first book, has been translated into seven languages. She teaches at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and at Wesleyan University.

ROBERT ATWAN, the series editor of The Best American Essays since its inception in 1986, has published on a wide variety of subjects, from American advertising and early photography to ancient divination and Shakespeare. His criticism, essays, humor, poetry, and fiction have appeared in numerous periodicals nationwide....more

Paperback, 272 pages

Published October 6th 2015 by Mariner Books

2. “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear,” Laura Munson, July 31, 2009.“I don’t love you anymore,” my husband said. “I’m not sure I ever did.”

His words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.

He drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears, to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to change his mind.

3. “Good Enough? That’s Great,” Daniel Jones, Jan. 31, 2014. What’s the best way to recalibrate a marriage as the years pass? I wish I had the answer, because clearly millions of us would like to know.

As the editor of the Modern Love column for nearly a decade, I have noticed people wrestling with two questions above all others. From the young: “How do I find love?” And from those wallowing through marital malaise: “How do I get it back?”

Though it’s not really love they want back as much as attention, excitement and passion.

4. “Age Is No Obstacle to Love, or Adventure,” Nora Johnson, Sept. 12, 2013. I used to think that elder love, if it even existed, was confined to rocking chairs or golf carts, that it had to be a dull business because of the physical limitations of age.

Failing memory would make interesting conversation impossible, and old people didn’t seem inclined or able to participate in the lovely stuff of love — sadly, because what better way to get through that wretchedly boring, painful and terrifying period we call our golden years?

5. “Coming Out as a Modern Family,” Maria Bello, Nov. 29, 2013.I have never understood the distinction of “primary” partner. Does that imply we have secondary and tertiary partners, too? Can my primary partner be my sister or child or best friend, or does it have to be someone I am having sex with? I have two friends who are sisters who have lived together for 15 years and raised a daughter. Are they not partners because they don’t have sex? And many married couples I know haven’t had sex for years. Are they any less partners?

6. “Sometimes, It’s Not You,” Sara Eckel, Sept. 23, 2011.Did we find love because we grew up, got real and worked through our issues? No. We just found the right guys. We found men who love us even though we’re still cranky and neurotic, haven’t got our careers together, and sometimes talk too loudly, drink too much and swear at the television news. We have gray hairs and unfashionable clothes and bad attitudes. They love us, anyway.

7. “Truly, Madly, Guiltily,” Ayelet Waldman, March 27, 2005. I am the only woman in Mommy and Me who seems to be, well, getting any. This could fill me with smug well-being. I could sit in the room and gloat over my wonderful marriage.

But I don’t. I am far too busy worrying about what’s wrong with me. Why, of all the women in the room, am I the only one who has not made the erotic transition a good mother is supposed to make? Why am I the only one incapable of placing her children at the center of her passionate universe?

8. “The Race Grows Sweeter Near Its Final Lap,” Eve Pell, Jan. 24, 2013.Old love is different. In our 70s and 80s, we had been through enough of life’s ups and downs to know who we were, and we had learned to compromise. We knew something about death because we had seen loved ones die. The finish line was drawing closer. Why not have one last blossoming of the heart?

I was no longer so pretty, but I was not so neurotic, either. I had survived loss and mistakes and ill-considered decisions; if this relationship failed, I’d survive that too.

9. “Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define,” Marguerite Fields (College Essay Contest Winner), May 4, 2008.When my friends and I started having a conversation about the nature of monogamy, I thought I knew something about monogamy. Because, despite the fleeting nature of most of my encounters, and despite my own role in their short duration, I think what I have been seeking in some form from all of these men is permanence.

Sometimes I don’t like them, or am scared of them, and a lot of times I’m just bored by them. But my fear or dislike or boredom never seems to diminish my underlying desire for a guy to stay, or at least to say he is going to stay, for a very long time.

10. “Somewhere Inside, a Path to Empathy,” David Finch, May 17, 2009.“I don’t know when things got bad,” Kristen said, wiping away tears. “I feel like I’ve lost you and I don’t know what will bring you back.”

In reality she hadn’t lost me. She’d found me. The facade of semi-normalcy I’d struggled to maintain was falling away, revealing the person I’d been since childhood. I didn’t even know what was wrong with me, though my wife, a speech pathologist who works with autistic children, had her suspicions. Even so, it would be another two years before she would put all the pieces together and attach a name to what was ruining our marriage: Asperger’s syndrome.

Continue reading the main story

0 thoughts on “Best Essayists 2015

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *