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Posts Tagged ‘Best American Essays’

The Best American Essays 2014 designated “Carlessness” a “notable” essay.

In “Carlessness,” which first appeared in Midwestern Gothic and subsequently was included in A Detroit Anthology (in modified form), I reflect on living without a car and places where that’s easy to do – as well as a place where it’s not.

This is the third time my work has been deemed “notable,” which amounts to a sort of honorable mention. Perhaps one of these years I’ll crash the “best” party.

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My piece “Nice Things about Detroit” was named a Notable Essay of 2012 in this year’s Best American Essays, edited by Cheryl Strayed and Robert Atwan. The essay first appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of The American Interest.

This is the second time something of mine was so designated. I was previously Notable for an essay that first appeared in Blood & Thunder and was subsequently included in my book Fighters & Writers.

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Every year I read Best American Essays – both because I’m one of those oddballs who actually enjoys essays and because I want to know what the competition is up to – and every year I’m struck by the popularity of morbidity and mortality as subjects of short nonfiction. The writers selected may contemplate fatal or less serious diseases, they may ponder the degeneration of their own health or someone else’s, but each volume reliably includes at least one essay on decay and death, and usually more than one.

Of course I recognize that such fundamental matters merit essayists’ consideration and that individuals’ experiences of sickness can yield compelling stories. Still, with so many essays of illness out there, and because of a constitutional unease with sharing intimate personal information with strangers, I hesitated before adding to the celebrated sub-genre.

But I did contribute to it. I wrote about physical conditions my wife and I confronted in a piece first published in a journal called Blood & Thunder: Musing on the Art of Medicine and subsequently included in Fighters & Writers.

Perhaps the way to explain my doing this is to rework a favorite line of Christopher Hitchens’s and say what matters is not what you write about but how you write. Hitchens writes about his struggle with cancer in the September 2010 issue of Vanity Fair. It is a revealing column – more openly personal than his argumentative memoir Hitch-22. It’s also a fine piece of writing, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in a future “best of” anthology. As it happens, Hitchens edited the forthcoming 2010 edition of Best American Essays. I would be surprised if there isn’t at least one essay of illness in it (even if he did make his picks before his diagnosis).

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