ON NEGATIVE CAPABILITY AND THE COCKTAIL PARTY ANALOGY IN MY PERSONAL FAVORITE BAE VOLUME:
"An essay doesn’t have to answer the question it asks. Maybe it doesn’t even ask a question. (I usually find essays that don’t have answers are the most interesting.) Some of the essays Oliver has selected provide possible answers; some don’t, happy to embrace beautiful, heartbreaking uncertainty. Oliver also imagines the essay as “a party to which all subjects are invited: humor, pathos remembrance, declaration, emotions, religious belief, the natural world.” The essays collected here reflect such a party, a rich gathering of subjects and writers, questions raised, questions considered."
ON THE FIRST PARAGRAPH OF GREGORY ORR'S "RETURN TO HAYNESVILLE":
"Now, I am an editor and thus strive to be a patient reader. I practice yoga to, among other reasons, become even more patient. But I confess that I adore a paragraph like this, one that requires no patience, that wastes no time and is nearly a complete story in itself." [Not surprisingly, she likes the rest of the piece too. It's without a doubt one of the best of The Best American Essays.]