I just finished reading the latest edition of "The Best American Nonrequired Reading." It includes maybe the best foreword I've ever read (although I doubt anyone could put together a top-five list of enjoyable forewords). It's by Matt Groening, and for some reason it never occurred to me that he was a good writer. Here's a small taste:
In high school I was a lonely, self-conscious smartass just like everyone else, but I was determined to change my luck. So I used to casually carry around a copy of Germain Greer's The Female Eunuch, praying that a cute feminist girl would see how cool I was, overlook my teenage mustache, and ask me out on a date.
Typical response: "What's that."
(Hopes up.) "The Female Eunuch."
Other standout pieces are Here Is A Lesson In Creative Writing by Kurt Vonnegut, and Letting Go Of God by Julia Sweeney. Here's a couple of paragraphs from the latter:
Then we got to stories like Sodom and Gomorrah. All I remembered was that they were sinful cities, like Las Vegas and Reno, and God got mad and wiped them out. And Lot's wife looked back when she was told not to and got turned into a pillar of salt. But the nuns of my grade school didn't tell us about what happens right before they flee. Right before they leave, two angels masquerading as men, come for a visit and stay overnight at Lot's house. And a mob forms outside and they yell, "Send out those two angel-like men to us so we can have sex with them!" And Lot says, "No!" Which I think is a basic rule of hospitality: don't give up your guests to be raped by an angry mob.
But what does he say next? He says, "Instead of the men, please take my daughters and rape and do what you will with them. They're virgins!"
OK, so Lot is evil, right? How is it that the story we know is about his wife turning into salt? Maybe this was her only way out. Maybe being a big pillar of salt is preferable to being married to Lot.
The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 (The Best American Series)
PS, the cover to The Female Eunuch is actually pretty cool:
The Female Eunuch