Best American Essays 2005, Edited by Susan Orlean

From the introduction, by Susan Orlean:

What moves me most is an essay in which the writer turns something over and over in his or her head, and in examining it finds a bit of truth about human nature and life and the experience of inhabiting the planet. For a reader to follow along as a writer examines the nature of long-term love through the experience of removing a boil on his back, or comes to understand her sexuality by questioning the history of her mother’s cooking. . .is to read a wonderful essay and to appreciate the elasticity of the form.

From “The Sea of Information,” by Andrea Barrett:

And sometimes I also had glimmers of another thing I’d once known: how effectively information can be used to wall off emotion. How the gathering of information can take the place of actual understanding.

From “Joyas Voladoras,” by Brian Doyle:

Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old. . . .

When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall.

From “Small Silences,” by Edward Hoagland:

Act purposefully but minimally and keep your reasons under wraps, was a lesson he taught me. Not the whole formula for life, but quite a beginning, because love and openness to what you love are fragile and yet will flower if cupped and sunlit: as will a freelance toughness and survivability, when you need that.

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