Best Contemporary Essays

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That quality is on full display in this collection, which spans nearly 30 years and twice as many subjects, from Vladimir Nabokov (his hero) to chess to writing about sex.

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that he’s a brilliant old grump.

“The gorgeous thing about Hal,” she tells us, “was that not only was he my friend, he was also my slave.

I made the majority of our decisions, including the bathtub one, which in retrospect was the beginning of the end.” , David Foster Wallace This one’s another “duh” moment, at least if you’re a fan of the literary essay.

This one, however, includes her stunner “A Drugstore in Winter,” which was chosen by Joyce Carol Oates for , and a rollicking anti-authoritarian, feminist, all-around bad-ass woman who had a hell of a way with words.

This collection examines the women’s movement, the plight of the aging radical, race relations, cultural politics, drugs, and Picasso. , Martin Amis As you know if you’ve ever heard him talk, Martin Amis is not only a notorious grouch but a sharp critical mind, particularly when it comes to literature., which we loved, and which we’re convinced deserves a place in the literary canon.To that end, we were inspired to put together our list of the greatest essay collections of all time, from the classic to the contemporary, from the personal to the critical.Her essays dissect not only art but the way we think about art, imploring us to “reveal the sensuous surface of art without mucking about in it.” It also contains the brilliant “Notes on ‘Camp,'” one of our all-time favorites., Virginia Woolf Woolf is a literary giant for a reason — she was as incisive and brilliant a critic as she was a novelist.Humane, incisive, and satisfyingly journalistic, Gates cobbles together the ultimate portrait of the 20th-century African-American male by refusing to cobble it together, and raises important questions about race and identity even as he entertains., Geoff Dyer This book of essays, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year of its publication, covers 25 years of the uncategorizable, inimitable Geoff Dyer’s work — casually erudite and yet liable to fascinate anyone wandering in the door, witty and breathing and full of truth., Clive James James’s collection is a strange beast, not like any other essay collection on this list but its own breed.An encyclopedia of modern culture, the book collects 110 new biographical essays, which provide more than enough room for James to flex his formidable intellect and curiosity, as he wanders off on tangents, anecdotes, and cultural criticism., Jo Ann Beard Another memoir-in-essays, or perhaps just a collection of personal narratives, Jo Ann Beard’s award-winning volume is a masterpiece.Not only does it include the luminous, emotionally destructive “The Fourth State of the Matter,” which we’ve already implored you to read, but also the incredible “Bulldozing the Baby,” which takes on a smaller tragedy: a three-year-old Beard’s separation from her doll Hal.

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