“Breaking Point: The Search for a Postwar Grandfather,” by Michael Carolan, was among “Notable Essays of 2008,” which were selected by Robert Atwan, series editor, and appeared in The Best American Essays 2009, edited by Mary Oliver. The essay originally appeared in the Autumn 2008 issue of The Massachusetts Review.

The Best American Essays features a selection of the years outstanding essays, essays of literary achievements that show an awareness of craft and forcefulness of thought,” writes series editor Robert Atwan in the Introduction. “Hundreds of essays are gathered from a wide assortment of national and regional publications. These essays are then screened, and approximately 100 are turned over to a distinguished guest editor….The list of Notable Essays appearing in the back of the book is drawn from a final comprehensive list that includes not only all of the essays submitted to the guest editor but also many that were not submitted. To qualify for the volume, the essay must be a work of respectable literary quality, intended as a fully developed, independent essay on a subject of general interest, not specialized scholarship, originally written in English, or translated by the author for publication in an American periodical during the calendar year. Today’s essay is a highly flexible and shifting form, however, so these criteria or not carved in stone.”

The Best American Essays 2009 was the 24th volume in the series; it was dedicated to writer John Updike, who died that year. The editor was the poet Mary Oliver, winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

 

“Michael Carolan’s beautifully crafted essay, “Breaking Point: The Search for a Postwar Grandfather,” moves back and forth in time exploring the relationship between the trauma of earlier generations and his own.” – Sima Rabinowitz, Newpages.com