"My Italian mother-in-law tells me that America is responsible for all the madness in the world, and it is beyond my Italian-language skill set to both agree and disagree. "


"I originally called this piece Notable Quotations from The Best American Essays 2003, because I planned to pick out pithy wisdom from guest editor Anne Fadiman’s choices, quotations telescoping what we’ve lost and learned since 2003. But there’s more to say than a mere list: in this volume, Fadiman champions hefty personal essays that make personal and worldly collisions strikingly clear.


"At first, I thought BAE2003 wasn’t a particularly timely collection, that it didn’t engage the whole wide world in ways I find urgent and necessary. The essays chosen by Fadiman would have been published in 2002, and as such, I expected to find more of them wrestling with the events of September 11, 2001. I expected to find more sense of the drumbeat to the Iraq war, as a diversion from the Afghanistan war, a shift that palpably occurred in America in the fall of 2002 and on into March 2003 when the bombing of Baghdad started. But then I looked more closely at the anthology, and I further changed my mind as I zeroed in on John Edgar Wideman’s essayistic reflections, “Whose War.” Wideman struggles to explain why anyone “would want to throw more words on a pile so high the thing to be written about has disappeared.” Bingo. How do we articulate fear?


"I was wrong to assume that BAE2003 does not engage the world; it certainly does not showcase an all-too-typical American blind spot even in our post-9/11 world. John Edgar Wideman writes that 'the lives lost [on September 11, 2001] mirror our own fragility and vulnerability, our unpredictable passage through the mysterious flow of time that eternally surrounds us, buoys us, drowns us.'"

Read the rest here of this timely, immersive piece here!


AuthorJohn Proctor