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10 best essays by American writers since 1950

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JR, Oct 12, 2012.

  1. JR

    JR Active Member

  2. The Big Ragu

    The Big Ragu Moderator Staff Member

    An OK list, even though I obviously haven't read all of them. I found the criteria amusing. I knocked off this. And I knocked off that. And I only included essays by a certain type of writer (which automatically produces a list with Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and James Baldwin on it. ... but not Hunter Thompson or Tom Wolfe, for example, and then by default excludes arguably the greatest essay during that time period, "Frank Sinatra has a Cold, by Gay Talese).

    In any case, these kinds of things are subjective, no matter what list anyone comes up with. I loved the inclusion of "The Search for Marvin Gardens" by John McPhee. It is a fantastic piece of writing.
     
  3. JR

    JR Active Member

    But then you figure if you're even attempting to name the 10 best of the last 62 years, it's going to be incredibly subjective. Pretty good list although predicable And I could read anything by McPhee.

    Remember reading "Frank Sinatra..." in Esquire when it first came out---I was a teenager back then--and remebmer thinking, "Holy crap....." even though I wasn't sure what I had just read.
     
  4. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    Where is the line between longform feature and essay? I'm not sure I quite understand why "Consider the Lobster" can be on the list, but say "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" or "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" cannot.

    If you're saying that an essay needs to have a POV and something personal in it, then Updike's piece certainly applies.

    I don't think Consider the Lobster is even Wallace's best essay, btw. It's quite good, obviously, but to me it's no "Up Simba" or "Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" or "String Theory" or "Rodger Federer as Religious Experience."
     
  5. Azrael

    Azrael Active Member

    Ditto. I think the choices are fine, but the question of what is and isn't an essay is still interesting. That it offer evidence in support of a central argument is the more modern interpretation,

    'Notes on Camp' is clearly an essay. 'Consider the Lobster' is a reported essay, I suppose.
     
  6. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    William Nack's essay on the life and death of Secretariat is still as fine a story as I've ever read.
    I make a point to read it again at least once a year, and whenever else I want to relive the magic.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1005832/index.htm
     
  7. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I've only read four of these. I will read the other five that are available online in the next few days. But my favorite traditional personal essay is "A Few Words About Breasts" by Nora Ephron.
     
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