A one-of-a-kind anthology of American essays on a wide range of subjects by a dazzling array of mid-century writers at the top of their form—from Normal Mailer to James Baldwin to Joan Didion—selected by acclaimed essayist Phillip Lopate
The three decades that followed World War II were an exceptionally fertile period for American essays. The explosion of journals and magazines, the rise of public intellectuals, and breakthroughs in the arts inspired a flowering of literary culture. At the same time, the many problems that confronted mid-century America—racism, sexism, nuclear threat, war, poverty, and environmental degradation among them—proved fruitful topics for America's best minds.
In The Golden Age of the American Essay, Phillip Lopate assembles a dazzling array of famous writers, critics, sociologists, theologians, historians, activists, theorists, humorists, poets, and novelists. Here are writers like James Agee, E. B. White, A. J. Liebling, Randall Jarrell, and Mary McCarthy, pivoting from the comic indignities of daily life to world peace, consumerism, and restaurants in Paris. Here is Norman Mailer on Jackie Kennedy, Vladimir Nabokov on Lolita, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail," and Richard Hofstadter's "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." Here are Gore Vidal, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, Susan Sontag, John Updike, Joan Didion, and many more, in a treasury of brilliant writing that has stood the test of time.
About the Author
PHILLIP LOPATE is the author of To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction and of four essay collections, Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, and Portrait Inside My Head. He is the editor of the anthologies The Art of the Personal Essay, Writing New York, and American Movie Critics. He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and two New York Foundation for the Arts grants. He is professor of writing at Columbia University's nonfiction MFA program, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
“What’s marvelous is the way Lopate’s anthologies . . . manage to be not only comprehensive monuments of deep expertise, but such continuously fresh and thrilling reading companions.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of The Feral Detective
“Phillip Lopate is one of the most brilliant and original essayists now working.” —Louise Glück, winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature