cover image The Best American Essays 1988

The Best American Essays 1988

. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $8.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-730-2

Some of these prettily composed personal pieces can be faulted as self-indulgent, philosophically esoteric, unfocused or elusive, as the writers, in a free-associative manner, ponder their pasts in an attempt to find coherency in the world. But readers will also discover here multifarious luminous works by thoughtful wordsmiths. William Manchester derides fake machismo and honors his brave comrades-in-arms as he relives the wet, green hell of Okinawa, and Samuel Hynes, who learned to fly in the U.S. Navy during WW II, recalls how happy he had been ``in the game of flying, before the dying began.'' A South African member of parliament who wages a just, lonely fight against apartheid is limned by E. J. Kahn Jr., and the ``lovely fragile'' tourist idyll of Haiti, disfigured by the ravages of AIDS, is mourned by Richard Selzer. Kimberly Wozencraft revisits her term at a minimum-security prison and Eleanor Munro resolves that each suffering pilgrim at Lourdes is ``like a plumb-weight pulling the cords of a whole belief system into alignment.'' (Oct.)