The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004 - Dave Eggers, Viggo Mortensen

I like this series, which, like all collections, has some strong pieces and some not-so-strong. As usual, I liked the fiction more than the nonfiction. I found David Mamet's piece on names incredibly tedious, and Jon Gertner's piece on the study of happiness was 10 years outdated when I read it, though that's not the fault of the author. I had of course read David Sedaris' "Full House" because I am in that demographic whose clichés include having intentionally or unintentionally consumed all of Sedaris's work. The final piece in the book, however, Michelle Tea's "Transmissions from Camp Trans", was so good I couldn't put it down. I think I'd like to come back to that one and read it a few more times.

The fiction ranged from very moving to just okay. Christopher Buckley's "We Have a Pope!" was cunningly funny. I liked that this edition included works that were more clearly horror (Ben Ehrenreich's "What You Eat") and speculative fiction (Robert Kelly's "How They Took My Body Apart and Made Another Me") than previous collections, which seemed to focus more on mainstream fiction. I think "What You Eat" will haunt me for quite a while. I didn't understand the graphic short story, "Vickie, Lacey, Ray, Sharon, Corey, Derek, Carol, and Dave." It was 8 panels long.

I would recommend this collection, as long as you're comfortable with not being wowed with every story. Also, you should skip the foreword, introduction, etc., as there is nothing helpful there.