Jessica's Reviews > The Best American Essays 2009

The Best American Essays 2009 by Mary Oliver
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Sep 14, 12

Read in June, 2012

I'm not sure why Mary Oliver, a poet, was chosen to edit an anthology of essays. I guess had this anthology been more enthralling it would have seemed an enlightened choice, but as it is, this is the worst of the BA Essay Anthologies I've read so far. First of all, an overwhelming amount of the essays are about writing (Patricia Hampl's is the best), which is great for us writers, but I'm sure less than captivating for everyone else. Such a selection sure doesn't invite the casual reader into the genre.
Secondly, almost all of the essays are shorter than normal, and on over-done topics, like dogs. I think I'm done reading essays about dogs, even if the dogs are Charles Darwin's. It's like dogs are supposed to be some sort of doppelganger of the soul, when in fact, they are dogs, and are thus predictable, and thus add little narrative suspense. I mean, I think dogs are cute in real life, but on the page, there are only so many things a dog is going to do.
And third, even the best writers here seem to be at their worst: I am an ardent fan of Richard Rodriguez, but he should stay out of the Middle East - he doesn't know enough about it to earn his own profound voice. I also love Jerald Walker, but he's writing about writing here, and like so many other writers on writing he comes off as more self-involved than I suspect he actually is.
There are a few essays that outshine everything else: Amy Leach's "You Be The Moon" is one of those essays that will sail 1,000 applications to writing school - truly inspiring. And Michael Lewis's "The Mansion: A Subprime Parable" is a delightful, informative, page-turner - solid nonfiction. Everything else is kinda meh.
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