40 Best Essays of All Time (With Links) | Rafal Reyzer
Phillip Lopate is a central figure in the resurgence of the American essay, both through his best-selling anthology The Art of the Personal Essay and his collections Bachelorhood, Against Joie de Vivre, Portrait of My Body, Portrait Inside My Head and To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction. He directs the nonfiction MFA program at Columbia University, where he is Professor of Writing.
I wanted to improve my writing skills
Millicent Bennett is an executive editor at Grand Central Publishing. Authors she has edited include Will Allison, Susannah Cahalan, Siri Hustvedt, Katie Kitamura, Phillip Lopate, David James Poissant, Douglas Preston, Liesl Schillinger, Brando Skyhorse, Steve Toltz, Lara Vapnyar, and Teddy Wayne. In recent years, her authors have won or been nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the Man Asian Literary Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Whiting Award, the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, the Rona Jaffe Award, the Kirkus Award, the B&N Discover Award, and the Giller Prize, among others. Before joining Grand Central, Bennett worked at S&S, Free Press, Random House, Ecco, and Knopf, where she was lucky enough to work with, and learn from, some of the most distinguished authors in the business.
In 1984, Phillip Lopate sat down with his mother, Frances, to listen to her life story. A strong, resilient, indomitable woman who lived through the major events of the twentieth century, she was orphaned in childhood, ran away and married young, and then reinvented herself as a mother, war factory worker, candy store owner, community organizer, clerk, actress, and singer. But paired with exciting anecdotes are the criticisms of the husband who couldn’t satisfy her, the details of numerous affairs and sexual encounters, and, though she succeeded at many of her roles, accounts of how she always felt mistreated, taken advantage of. After the interviews, at a loss for what to do with the tapes, Lopate put them away. But thirty years later, after his mother had passed away, Lopate found himself drawn back to the recordings of this conversation. Thus begins a three-way conversation between a mother, his younger self, and the person he is today.