Monday, December 7, Robert Atwan: The Best American Essays: The Best American Essays was published in both hardcover and paperback until Starting withthe books appear only in paperback.
Monday, December 7, Robert Atwan: The Best American Essays: The Best American Essays was published in both hardcover and paperback until Starting withthe books appear only in paperback. For the first two editions in andHoughton Mifflin released a now hard-to-find boxed paperback set with both essays and stories.
So most likely the idea for the essay series occurred to me a week or so earlier, in mid-May. Exactly two years later, I turned in the manuscript of the first volume of the series, The Best American Essays A good deal of effort went on in the interim.
I was testing the waters and wanted to see what a trade publisher thought of such a project.
I did not want to go that route, at least not at first. My goal was to call attention to the essay as a vital literary genre, and I wanted the series to receive more than academic sanction. I came to the essay through both academia and college publishing. For more, see here.
This is about when I enter the publishing scene. Published inPopular Writing in America: The Interaction of Style and Audience was based on our satisfying experiences teaching composition courses while graduate students at Rutgers University.
Influenced by the rise of both popular culture studies and New Journalism, the book was, as we well knew, somewhat behind the times, but it succeeded nevertheless. And in publishing as in film or music, one successful venture opens the door to further opportunities, and so in Alfred A.
Knopf published another of our freshman readers, Thinking in Writing: This book contained all essays, but it was not nearly as successful as our previous book, though I would learn years later from David Foster Wallace that it remained one of his favorite writing textbooks.
But the question remained: I felt very confident that the idea was a good one and that I could carry it off, but I was unprepared for the resistance I met from editors and publishers. I soon found I faced an enormous obstacle: This ignorance allowed me to persevere with what to some seemed like a hopeless idea.
Later on, when I began to write about the recent history of the genre I would discover that not only had the essay been ignored in the academy following the expanding literary authority of the New Criticism, but it had also been replaced in many American magazines by the topical and informative article.
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century essay was essentially belletristic—a major form of the so-called Genteel Tradition. But the age of belles lettres had come to an end. But writers have always been a resilient lot. Morgan and many others had infused a new craft and artistry into such magazine stalwarts as the feature story, the topical article, timely reportage, book, film and music criticism, the interview and celebrity profile.
The traditional belletristic essay was typically composed by comfortably situated males who appeared to write out of a congenial retirement and who enjoyed peering at everyday life from the perspective of a bemused observer—what came to be the conventional essayistic stance.
Such writing had little to do with the vulgarities of reporting. The first collection of her essays, mostly written betweenimpressively shows how the art of the essay could successfully assimilate the art of reporting.
Was I uncritically stretching the genre to accommodate writing that had little to do with how essays had always behaved since Montaigne?
From a purely practical point of view, such stretching would be a publishing incentive: The older and more conventional familiar essay had not, of course, entirely disappeared.
But these titles did not suffice. After trying to demonstrate that the literary essay was still alive and that the revitalized magazine article with its new reportorial style could be reasonably viewed as essayistic, I was still unable to persuade publishers that an annual series could be a viable commodity.
My letter to E. White in January asking him if he would lend his distinguished name to a series that would be called Prize Essays White Awards was met with a polite refusal, though he hoped his work might be considered for the series.
White would die that October and I sometimes think that my letter may have suggested to him that he was already moribund and that when he said he hoped instead to be included he was reminding me that he was still very much alive.
At a meeting in New York they expressed enthusiasm for the idea and I was encouraged until they correctly decided that an annual book would be too difficult for a small house to handle.
By then, I was calling the series The Emerson Awards. Emerson, however, proved fruitful.Robert Atwan is the founder and series editor of The Best American Essays. The volume, the thirtieth in the series, is guest-edited .
The Best American Essays Edited by Jonathan Franzen, series editor Robert Atwan. series editor Robert Atwan. Mariner, $ trade paper (p) ISBN Buy this book. Robert Atwan is the series editor of The Best American Essays.
He has edited numerous literary anthologies and written essays for periodicals Selections from The Best American Essays of the Century On the twenty-ninth of July, in , my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this.
The modest circumstances of Atwan's early life, coupled with his own admirable thinking and writing about the essay in each "Foreword" in the Best American Essays series, re-inscribe the fundamental importance of reading and writing literature as deeply democratic activities.
Robert Atwan is the founder and series editor of The Best American Essays.
The volume, the thirtieth in the series, is guest-edited by Ariel Levy and has just been released. The Best American Essays Edited by Hilton Als and Robert Atwan.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $ trade paper (p) ISBN Buy this book In a personal.