Best American Essays 2016

We’re excited to say that Antonia Malchik’s essay, “Bitterroot,” from the summer 2015 issue of 1966 has been selected as a “notable essay” of 2015 by the editors of The Best American Essays 2016

You can read this wonderful essay here.

Congratulations, Antonia, and thank you for allowing us to publish your work!

In other “notable” news, our editor, Kelly Grey Carlisle, also received a nod for her essay “Permutations of X,” which appeared in New England Review.

Many thanks, as always, to Robert Atwan and the other editors at Best American. The Best American Essays series celebrates our genre every year and brings all of us amazing essays we might otherwise have missed. It also encourages many writers and small magazines through the recognition of their work in the “notable essays” list. That encouragement means a lot and we’re grateful. You can purchase Best American Essays 2016  at your local, independent bookstore.

Where’s Lillie?

Alice Lowe, author of “Lillie’s Legacy”  from our Winter 2015 issue, recently revisited Coit Tower, the inspiration behind her piece. Upon visiting, she made a shocking discovery.

Ms. Lowe recounts this experience below.  

 

In early January, just a few weeks after “Lillie’s Legacy” was published in 1966, my husband and I went to San Francisco for a weekend getaway, our reward to ourselves for surviving the holidays. I was eager to revisit Coit Tower, the setting and theme of my essay.

On our first morning we made our usual trek from North Beach up Telegraph Hill, arriving at the tower just before it opened for the day. At 10:00 a.m. a woman I hadn’t seen there previously unlocked the door and came out on the steps. In a sing-song voice, she welcomed the dozen or so of us assembled, adding that she could provide translations in seven languages. Don turned left as we entered; I headed to the right. “I’m going to greet Lillie,” I said, referring to the bust of Lillie Coit that at one time graced the front steps and later was moved to a west-facing window inside.

I turned the corner and stopped short. The space the pedestal had occupied was bare. I wondered where they’d moved it this time, but there was no sign of it on a full circle around the perimeter. I returned to the entrance and asked the woman, “Where’s Lillie?” At her puzzled expression I said, “The statue of Lillie Coit that used to be in the west window.”

“I’ve never seen it,” she said.

She must be new here, I thought. I went back around to ask at the ticket window and was pleased to see Terry, the man who had taken me on the private tour to the hidden murals on my last visit. I re-introduced myself and reminded him of his generous act of a year ago and told him about my essay, gave him the website where he could read it. “You’re in it,” I said.

“So,” I asked, “where’s the bust of Lillie that used to be around the corner?”

Another perplexed look. “We had a display case featuring Lillie, with a photograph, a brief biography and some mementos,” he said. “There was no bust.”

I questioned him repeatedly, as if I would get a more satisfactory response if I kept asking, as if he would say “just kidding” and lead me to the statue. “I saw it when I was here last year,” I said.

“You couldn’t have seen it last year, even if it existed,” he replied, telling me that when they reopened after the last restoration, the pedestal wasn’t put back on display.

I called Don over and asked him what he recalled. His description matched Terry’s. “Why didn’t you say something when you read the draft of my essay?” I asked. He shrugged—he reads my papers, but he doesn’t offer critique or pay attention to details.

I could see it—a three-dimensional Lillie atop a pedestal, an engraved bio underneath—clearly in my mind. Was my memory playing tricks on me? Had I invented it? I was stunned, mystified, dismayed.

When I wrote my essay, I carefully verified all the facts about Lillie, the tower, the murals, the artists. But I had no reason to doubt this tangible monument. If I’d recalled seeing Elvis Presley in one of the murals, I’d have been suspicious, but a tribute to the benefactor of the tower, the irrepressible Lillie Coit? And after repeated visits?

Neuroscience has corroborated what novelists, poets and memoir writers have been saying for centuries. They’ve confirmed the physiological basis of memory and explored the brain activity involved in recalling stored memories, demonstrated that memory may be a result of the act of remembering and as such can be altered with every recall. Memory was the basis for Virginia Woolf’s concept of consciousness and our construction of it. She frequently questioned the accuracy of her memories and articulated her speculations. In memoir sketches she tells about her step-brother clubbing a fish with a broom handle, and immediately follows by asking: “Can I be remembering a fact?”

For centuries memoirists and essayists have issued disclaimers to explain faulty recollections. Rousseau stated in his eighteenth century Confessions that some of his facts might be incorrect, but “I cannot be mistaken about what I felt….” Tobias Wolff prefaced the more recent This Boy’s Life with a similar caveat “…memory has its own story to tell. But I have done my best to make this a truthful story.”

With red-faced apologies to the diligent fact-checking editors of 1966 and to my readers, I plead my innocence by virtue of extenuating circumstances. In my mind, the bust of Lillie Coit welcomes visitors to Coit Tower.

*

Alice Lowe reads and writes about food and family, Virginia Woolf, and life. Her personal essays have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Permafrost, Upstreet, Hippocampus, Tinge, Switchback, and Prime Number. She was the 2013 national award winner at City Works Journal and winner of a 2011 essay contest at Writing It Real. Her work on Virginia Woolf includes two monographs published by Cecil Woolf Publishers in London. Alice lives in San Diego, California and blogs at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.

Best American Essays 2015

We’re excited to say that Carolyn Kraus’s essay, “A Thing with Feathers,” from the Spring 2014 issue of 1966 has been selected as a “notable essay” of 2014 by the editors of The Best American Essays 2015.

You can read this wonderful essay here.

Congratulations, Carolyn, and thank you for allowing us to publish your work. And thank you to Robert Atwan, Ariel Levy, and the other editors at Best American. The Best American Essays series celebrates our genre every year and brings all of us amazing essays we might otherwise have missed. It also encourages a lot of writers and small magazines through the recognition of their work in the “notable essays” list. That encouragement means a lot and we’re grateful. You can purchase Best American Essays 2015  at your local, independent bookstore.

Welcome to the Summer Issue

We’re please to present our summer issue. In it, our writers contemplate the varied topics of professional wrestling, fracking and the prairie, migraines, nuns and love, Lauren Bacall and another Betty, pansies, the humanity of a drug smuggler, the death of a mysterious father, the sea urchin Diadema.

 We can’t help but notice that most of these essays talk about loss in one way or another, whether it be environmental devastation or the loss of love, freedom or family (and even the loss of pain). But so many of them also show how sometimes the universe gives us small gifts amid that loss, ways to make do without, salves to ease pain: the smell of pansies and dirt, memories of love, scientists and prairie activists, a wrestler’s dedication to craft, Bacall’s strong chin. And even in the bleakest of these essays, there is still this sign of hope: writers making shining art from the darkest places humans find themselves. We hope you find pleasure here, and failing that, strength.

1966 and The Best American Essays 2014

We’re excited to say that three essays from the inaugural volume of 1966 have been selected as “notable essays” of 2013 by the editors of The Best American Essays 2014. They are:

“An Aristocratic Murder” by Judith Barrington and “Spook” by Lee Martin, from our first issue.

“On Saliva” by Alicia Catt from our second issue.

Congratulations, Judith, Lee, and Alicia, and thank you for allowing us to publish your work. And thank you to Robert Atwan, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and the other editors at Best American. The Best American Essays series celebrates our genre every year and brings all of us amazing essays we might otherwise have missed. It also encourages a lot of writers and small magazines through the recognition of their work in the “notable essays” list. That encouragement means a lot and we’re grateful. You can purchase The Best American Essays 2014 in October at your local, independent bookstore.