The Glorious American Essay: One Hundred Essays from Colonial Times to the Present

Pantheon. Nov. 2020. 928p. ed. by Phillip Lopate. ISBN 9781524747268. $40. LIT
Prolific anthologist Lopate (The Art of the Personal Essay) returns to present a collection of American essays spanning Colonial times to the present, covering themes of aesthetics and philosophy, religion, landscape, love and sexuality, and feminism, among others. This anthology uniquely tells the story of America as well as the essay. Arranged by form (e.g., “sermons,” “speeches and lectures,” “nature and science writing,” “polemics”), it includes headnotes for each piece, as well as an informative introduction. Essayists both well known (e.g., Tom Paine, George Washington, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, James Baldwin, Zadie Smith) sit alongside less-famous writers (e.g., St. John Crevecoeur, Fanny Fern, Sui Sin Far, and Randolph Bourne). Women and minority groups are well represented, ensuring a comprehensive selection. Lopate further addresses readers’ queries as to why specific writers (Gore Vidal, Philip Roth) are not present.
VERDICT Two forthcoming collections is this series focusing on the postwar era (1945–2000) and essays of the 21st century will ensure this is the most comprehensive set of American essay writing to date. For readers fascinated by the sheer scope, variety, and art of the essay.
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