The Best American Essays 2014 edited by John Jeremiah Sullivan
The older I get, the more I enjoy essay and short story collections. I can dip in and out of them quickly, and their portability and shorter length makes them perfect for those stolen reading moments, especially in the evenings.
So, I was delighted when my husband found this collection, “The Best American Essays 2014” edited by John Jeremiah Sullivan, in Cape May’s charming independent bookstore, and I dove headfirst into Wendy Brenner’s weird wonderful piece “Strange Beads” immediately. This odd little tale of an eccentric collector, an ailing professor and the jewelry that brings them together was worth the price of the entire book, but most of the rest of the essays did not disappoint – and many were memorable.
Emily Fox Gordon’s “At Sixty-Five” was another of my favorites, as I am edging up on that magical age myself. She delves into the losses and gifts of aging with wit and humor, and I found myself quoting her aloud to anyone who would listen.
I found “Letter from Greenwich Villiage” by Vivian Gornick to be equally engaging and quotable – an exploration of a friendship that has weathered the years and vagaries of time and remains steadfast and comfortable.
I wish I could forget “Sliver of Sky” by Barry Lopez, a searing memoir of unspeakable sexual abuse. I read the book between bouts of tears, marveling at the author’s ability to survive and share his story.
That is another reason why I love anthologies, and in particular this publisher’s “Best American” series. They expose me to writing I might otherwise have missed. I don’t usually think of myself as a Dave Eggers fan, but his super-short and deceptively simple “The Man at the River” made me want to revisit him and perhaps reassess my perception of his work. “How to Make a Slave” introduced me to Jerald Walker, and I intend to read everything else he has written as soon as I can.
This is one of those collections I will keep, to reread and to press upon friends. I’m glad for independent bookstores and their eclectic offerings, and I could not be more pleased to recommend this book to anyone.