James Baldwin, "Notes of a Native Son" (originally appeared. Harpers, 1955 i had never thought of myself as an essayist, wrote James Baldwin, who was finishing his novel. Giovannis Room while he worked on what would become one of the great American essays. Against a violent historical background, Baldwin recalls his deeply troubled relationship with his father and explores his growing awareness of himself as a black best essay ever written American.Some today may question the relevance of the essay in our brave new post-racial world, though Baldwin considered the essay still relevant in 1984 and, had he lived to see it, the election of Barak Obama may not have changed his mind. However you view the racial politics, the prose is undeniably hypnotic, beautifully modulated and yet full of urgency.Langston Hughes nailed it when he described Baldwins illuminating intensity. The essay was collected. Notes of a Native Son courageously (at the time) published by Beacon Press in 1955.
Robert Atwan, the writing expository essay 4th grade founder of, the Best American Essays series, picks the 10 best essays of the postwar period. Links to the essays are provided when available. Fortunately, when I worked with Joyce Carol Oates.The Best American Essays of the Century (thats the last century, by the way we werent restricted to ten selections. So to make my list of the top ten essays since 1950 less impossible, I decided to exclude all the great examples of New Journalism-Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Michael Herr, and many others can be reserved for another list. I also decided to include only American writers, so such outstanding English-language essayists as Chris Arthur and Tim Robinson are missing, though they have appeared. The Best American Essays series.And I selected essays, not essayists. A list of the top ten essayists since 1950 would feature some different writers. To my mind, the best essays are deeply personal (that doesnt necessarily mean autobiographical) and deeply engaged with issues and ideas. And the best essays show that the name of the genre is also a verb, so they demonstrate a mind in process-reflecting, trying-out, essaying.
Bird by Bird, Stephen Kings, on Writing, and Ron Carlsons, ron Carlson Writes a essay writing nutrition month Story, or, in a somewhat different sense, David Shields. Reality Hunger, for those looking for a longer commitment. Read on, and add your own favorite essays on writing to the list in the comments.Not-Knowing, Donald Barthelme, from, not Knowing: the Essays and Interviews of Donald Barthelme. In which Barthelme, a personal favorite and king of strange and wonderful stories, muses on not-knowing, style, our ability to quarrel with the world, constructively, messiness, Mallarm, and a thief named Zeno passed out wearing a chastity belt. The not-knowing is crucial to art, is what permits art to be made.Without the scanning process engendered by not-knowing, without the possibility of having the mind move in unanticipated directions, there would be no invention. George Orwell, henry Miller. Joan Didion, jonathan Lethem, kurt Vonnegut robert frost, susan Sontag.
If theres one topic that writers can be counted on to tackle at least once in their working lives, its writing itself. A write my assignment ie good thing too, especially for all those aspiring writers out there looking for a little bit of guidance. For some winter inspiration and honing of your craft, here youll find ten great essays on writing, from the classic to the contemporary, from the specific to the all-encompassing.Note: there are many, many, many great essays on writing. Bias has been extended here to personal favorites and those available to read online. Also of note but not included: full books on the subject like Anne Lamotts.