Best American Essays 2009

I’m taking a break from novels and memoirs to enjoy some shorter works, polishing off one essay from this collection each night before bed.  My favorites so far?

In less than 5 pages, “Cuss Time” by Jill McCorkle shines a light on the power of language, how we learn to use ‘bad’ language, and what we gain/lose in the process.

For my writer friends, “The Dark Art of Deception” is Patricia Hampl’s rendering of her obsession with detail, description, and even punctuation (“It was almost two a.m. and for the past four hours I’d been changing commas to dashes and then back again to commas with the obsessive focus only a fanatic can sustain.” — sound familiar??).

In “Shipwrecked” by Janna Malamud Smith, she juxtaposes her experience of her mother’s death with shipwrecked vessels.  It is, of course, about loss.   Loved it.

By far the most entertaining was Michael Lewis’s “The Mansion: A Subprime Parable” in which he examines how we Americans have gotten ourselves into the current mortgage crisis by our desire to inhabit a home that’s beyond our financial means.  It’s funny and enlightening.