Essays can often have a certain unapproachable quality. However, when you read Barth, you can’t expect a constant stream of seriousness, or at least seriousness in the most acceptable times. Even before the barrage of essays comes forth to dazzle us, under the heading “The Title of This Book,” he already starts with some unserious seriousness when reflecting on the various sorts of titles floating around in the literary world—while refraining from actually speaking of his title much at all.
For what Wrigley does so well with analyzing his own and others’ poetry, there is also a uniqueness with his ability to switch between poetic analysis and intimate memoir on command. The book as a whole is a highly original composition in that it succeeds in combining close readings of poetry, personal narrative, and poetry by Wrigley himself. All of which are quick to grab readers’ attention with a highly in touch sense of pathos and nostalgia.
The fifty-odd pieces that make up this collection are divided thematically into eleven different sections and take aim at national holidays, movies, language, literature and a host of other themes, from a Native American perspective, and culminate in a merciless assessment of the Donald Trump administration, the coup de grâce a poem entitled ”Ars Poetica by Donald Trump.”
Not many writers could pull off such a diffuse structure but Smith does it beautifully, using her poetic vernacular and pulling the reader in so tightly, we begin to think and perceive in Smith’s fragmentary, hallucinogenic way. The result is strangely exhilarating.
Moore writes like her life depends on it. She dissects the stories of her life with intelligence and precision, and invites the reader to share in her examination. Feminist, political, funny, and irreverent, Moore’s essays are masterful, and show a true love of the form; the stories are deeply personal, while still tapping into shared human experience.
Known and Strange Things, the title coming from Seamus Heaney, is structured by division into four sections: Reading Things; Seeing Things; Being There; and Epilogue. Cole notes that the book contains ‘some of my most vital enthusiasms’ as well as pieces on the new, and that he was testing his knowledge and its limits. He left as much out as he included, and could have produced a second book with the excluded.
In this illuminating book the authors, who happen to be husband and wife, present a personal view of Sweden, a country most of us know very little about. They do this by way of writing several short essays – there are 29 altogether – focusing on different aspects of Sweden and Swedish life.
These essays read like meditations for the well-being of four billion people. It’s a heady goal but likely a beneficial mission suited for the world-at-large. If Poverty and War have a permanent cure the medicine will arrive by natural means. No test tube or holy touchstone can bring people closer to peace until they settle the war raging in their own hearts.
Cage wrote once that chance (the use of aleatory procedures in composition) liberated him ‘from what I had thought to be freedom and which actually was only the accretion of habits and tastes.’ He abhorred whatever was consistent and predictable, hence his difficulties with German (though not only German) organisers, alluded to here. His creative ambition was to always transcend himself, and clearly this was for Cage an existential (spiritual) aspiration too.
Subject matter for these often humorous, always provocative compositions show-case the writer’s New York City childhood, his often whimsical family, his Jewish culture, life in general and more. There is something in Phoning Home: Essays for every reader. The tales portray the writer’s inimitable voice, a merging of nostalgia and insights, mitigated through his education including degrees in ethics, law and medicine. Appel is a man who questions, learns and seeks more answers.