THE BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING
Release date: 10/01/2002
Eggers, the very hip publisher of McSweeny's, edits this first book in a new series from the Best American imprint intended for readers aged 15 to 25. Both the series editor, Michael Cart, and Eggers neglect to explain what makes these 22 pieces instances of "non-required reading," but it seems to mean cool stuff in fiction or nonfiction. So we get "My Fake Job," by Rodney Rothman, which caused a stir when it was published in the New Yorker. The article relates a hoax Rothman pulled: he hung out at a dot-com company, pretending to be employed there. The stir concerned the truthfulness of Rothman's account—but truthful or not, the piece is not worth preserving. The satiric pieces from the Onion are similarly past their shelf dates, and the Seaton Smith piece from Modern Humorist (" 'Jiving' with your Teen"), while funny, is not peak funny, the way Modern Humorist 's political satire is. "Speed Demons," by Karl Taro Greenfeld, is an excellent piece of reportage on the methamphetamine scourge in Asia, including usually drug-free Japan. "Fourth Angry Mouse," a story by David Schichter, is a nice, Sedaris-like story about a mediocre actor's reluctant rise to fame as a kitsch icon in New York. It remains to be seen whether this anthology has legs beyond Eggers's sensibility. If it does, it will surely have to develop some more explicit rationale. (Oct. 15)
Forecast:Readers in their late teens and early 20s may or may not appreciate the idea of age-coded literature, but there is no denying the drawing power of Eggers's name.