"As it turns out, technology is a major subject of most of the BAE introductions, particularly the latter years, and in many of our essayists’ responses to these anthologies, whether we’re lamenting the speed and shallowness of the culture and what that means for the sort of thinking that we seem to want to venerate, or whether it’s marveling at the quickness with which essays are now published and proliferate online, to write about time and the essay is to write about technology. If technology is a familiar subject for essays, more promising to me is the underwritten idea of the essay as technology, what exactly it does—what it used to do, what it still does, how it compresses and elides and sometimes seems to entirely stop time. And what it means for these yearly anthologies to encapsulate some little sample of the culture, no matter how flawed or weird or wack or idiosyncratic or limiting. Either way, some essays rise up and are preserved, remembered slightly better here."


"You can almost always tell, when shopping secondhand, which books came from the same person; they get shelved together by inertia more often than not, and they're often the same vintage, or with similar aging patterns. One time at another Tucson thrift store, Savers, I bought nearly sixty poetry collections, many by former colleagues of mine at Arizona, books sadly out of print and often-enough forgotten, all from the same reader, obviously, maybe someone who gave up on poetry, or gave up on the poetry that people at Arizona wrote in the 1980s and 1990s. Inside one copy was a draft of a poem. I bought them all and read them. It's depressing mentioning this...


"Did the reader keep the others in the series and choose only these to weed? And why? Did they only have these nine and tire of them? Did they find themselves suddenly in their lives at a point with no use for essays, or the essays of yesterday? Did they get past thinking about considerations of Best? Did they just tire of keeping up with the series or the essay or contemporary writing? Or did they simply die and just have all their books donated without order or thought?...If I could I would have loved to have asked the reader (or reader’s surviving spouse or child or friend or passing stranger or bookseller recruited for the task) to reflect on the decision of this donation, to essay the occasion of donating these nine different years of Best American Essays this day to this Goodwill."


"Then, too, there’s Annie Dillard, and while I’d love for this to be my opportunity to essay against Annie Dillard, a sea turtle crossed with National Public Radio, today is not that day; I kind of can’t get my anger (or my pleasure) up for this particular piece."


"This was a thought I'd never had before reading [BAE 1999], but one that felt obvious to me now: essays are conversations. They're messages. We are speaking to one another, aren't we, even if the one to whom we speak is no longer alive. We're not just publishing these essays into the void.


"What I like is the opportunity for reflection that Advent offers us, and the rigor of the calendar. It’s a little chamber that we make here in this space on Essay Daily and ask you to skim off just a little of your consciousness as you graze by en route to the rest of your lives, and leave it here with us for a moment. We’ll take just ten percent of the processing time of the moments it takes you to engage with us. That’s the pleasure of essay (or of literature and art in general), isn’t it? That it takes us over for a little while? The more forceful the art, the more of us it occupies in the moment when we’re encountering it. The craftier the art, perhaps the less overt, but the more of itself it leaves behind."

As expected, the final advent gift by Editor Ander Monson is a real treat, and a great bookend to the series. Read the rest here!

AuthorJohn Proctor