Best American Essays (2010) by Christopher Hitchens
The twenty-fifth anniversary edition of this perennial favorite is now under the guidance of the thought-provoking and highly acclaimed author Christopher Hitchens. With his expertise, this edition proves to be a reliable and yet still surprising collection of the very best. As described by Kirkus Reviews, it is a masterpiece that continues to leave readers both satisfied and intrigued.
Best American Essays 2010: Personal Narratives and Cultural Critique
Now it’s my pleasure to introduce our panel this evening. Immediately to my left is Robert Atwan, who has been the series editor for the Best American Essays since it began in 1986. He is a widely published author and editor, currently working on a book on Shakespeare’s creative process. To his left is John H. Summers, a professor of history at Boston College and a contributor to this year’s volume of Best American Essays. And on the far left is Gerald Walker, a professor of creative writing at Emerson College and a contributor to both Best American Essays and Best African-American Essays. Please join me in welcoming Robert Atwan, John Summers, and Gerald Walker.
Thank you all for being here tonight. We’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Best American Essays series, which began in 1988. As part of tonight’s event, I wanted to share a few paragraphs that Robert Atwan wrote back in 1995 or 1996 about the series and its history.
When the series started in 1985, the world was a different place. Communication happened mainly by letter and phone, not fax and email. But the digital revolution was underway, and it shaped our lives in unpredictable ways. Google didn’t exist, and first-class postage cost 22 cents. But now, we review more periodicals and screen more essays than ever before. With each passing year, we read more electronic texts. Books are becoming digital, and the future of reading is changing.
In the midst of this change, I believe we need to ask what will be the impact of the new media on the art of reading. Will ebooks become the dominant form of publishing? Will physical books become objects of art for a special literary audience? These are serious questions we face today, and they are important for education and the future of literature.
As writers and readers, we must continue to ask questions and make good guesses about the upsides and downsides of moving to a predominantly electronic publishing world. We must consider the impact on reading, the role of physical books, and the future of the book in our digital age. These questions may not have definitive answers, but they are worth exploring as we navigate this rapidly changing landscape.
Thank you all for listening, and now I’d like to pass the floor to John Summers to share his essay, followed by Gerald Walker.