THE BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING 2004

Dave Eggers, Editor, Viggo Mortensen, Introduction by , intro. by Viggo Mortensen. Houghton Mifflin $27.50 (448p) ISBN 978-0-618-34122-1 ISBN 978-0-618-34123-8

Eggers explains this series, now in its third year: "The purpose of this book is to collect good work of any kind—fiction, humor, essays, comics, journalism—in one place, for the English-reading consumer." The editor founded a San Francisco writing lab, where Bay Area high school students "seek out back issues of periodicals, make copies of things they like, and bring them in for everyone to read," and it's these selections that make up this hodgepodge. With subject matter ranging from clowns and popes to transsexualism and zoanthropy, this is an assemblage of diverse delights from Web sites, literary magazines and the mainstream press, with small-circulation publications getting a bigger boost than in previous volumes. Contributors include David Mamet, David Sedaris, Christopher Buckley and Michelle Tea. Mortensen's introduction, one of the strongest contributions, is a haunting lament for lost words, a "painful sense of losing ideas," after his backpack of journals and screenplays is stolen. The book is a zesty bouillabaisse of nonrequired reading that should be required, and Adrian Tomine's multi-paneled cover illustration effectively captures its essence. (Oct. 14)

Forecast: Sales will get a boost when those familiar with Mortensen's acting ( Lord of the Rings) and art books ( Recent Forgeries; SignLanguage) spot his name on the cover.

Reviewed on: 08/30/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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