cover image The Best American Essays 1991

The Best American Essays 1991

Joyce Carol Oates. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $9.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-89919-928-3

Selected by Oates ( Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart ) , this year's best-essay picks offer up a mixture of blather, self-indulgent and/or unfocused scribbling and incisive writing. Piquing our interest, Mario Vargas Llosa asks how it was possible for the powerful, sophisticated ancient Mexicans and Peruvians to have succumbed to small bands of Spanish adventurers and why the postcolonial republics of the Americas have failed to improve the lives of their Indian citizens. With avowed contempt for the white liberal intellectual's romance with Native American culture, Diana Hume George in a sterling piece describes her marriage to an illiterate, hard-drinking, impoverished Indian eventually convicted of raping white women. Preaching to the converted, Joy Williams blasts hunters and the ``pogrom'' promulgated against wild animals. Marianna De Marco Torgovnick deciphers Bensonhurst Italian Americans; Margaret Atwood and John Updike focus on the female body; Gerald Early rambles on about how his wifei've stetted some/pk , a black, wants no part in closing down the Miss America competition now that black women are winning; Woody Allen confesses a crush on the biblical Lot's wife; and, visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum, Jane Tompkins wonders if ``museums are a form of cannibalism made safe for polite society.'' (Oct.)