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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best American Essays 2007

Here it is, the last book of the year. Unless I read one more just to read one, I don't see myself reading one this week for pleasure, it would be like a school assignment if I did. I would just be hoop jumping. I have one more post to make on the project but for now let's look at another work of non-fiction, the best American essays of 2007.

The book starts out with a punch to the teeth with an essay called Werner.  A man is caught in a fire and does what it takes to try to save himself and his cat.  I cried.

The book includes three essays on the conduct of the Bush administration during the Iraq war and the "war on terror", Iraq: The war of the imagination is an indictment of the incompetence of the buildup to war and the execution of the post war period, An Orgy of Power is a good overview of the dangers of a society that is willing to engage in torture, and Rules of Engagement is an overview of the ways that the Bush administration broke the laws of war, engaged in wholesale perfidy and has now put us on a path where the rules of warfare no longer apply.

Afternoon of the Sex Children was the hardest piece. It started out like an essay that you find in a college English textbook. I half expected the author to go into a long lecture on semiotics but it pulled right around.  The article was about how the sexual revolution isn't about liberation, it's about how we have sexualized  every aspect of society and about how the sexual revolution won't be complete until people are free to be asexual. Not overtly straight, bisexual or gay  Why couldn't Brittany, Christina, the Jonas brothers and the Twilight crew be talented kids? Why do we need to project an oversexed identity onto teens? It started out obscure but ended up looping into quite the thought provoking piece.

Operation Gommorrah is another WWII memoir  But can we ever get enough? Highlights include screaming Germans kicking Jews out of bomb shelters and mothers wading through asphalt that has turned to liquid because of firebombs trying to save their babies.  Nothing makes you appreciate a nice peaceful day like a WWII story.

All this is topped off by essays on how much a billionaire should give to charity, why California sucks (and this was written in boom times), why actors suffer stage-fright and a like the cherry on top of a delicious sundae the story of an English woman who 200 years ago cut up little bits of paper to make collages of flowers so accurate and intricate that botanists today still use them.

With all that I would say that this book is one of the best reads I have ever had.

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