Witty, reflective, opinionated essays from a writer with the ability to “laugh in dark times.”



A new collection of personal essays from a self-proclaimed “depressive pessimist” and “angry, bird-loving misfit.”

Franzen’s (Purity, 2015, etc.) third collection of recently published essays and speeches sparkles with intelligent and insightful forays into a limited range of subjects. The opening piece, “The Essay in Dark Times,” could function as a primer for the book. We might be “living in an essayistic golden age,” while the personal essay “is in eclipse.” After recounting lessons learned while working on an essay with a wise New Yorker editor, the author jumps to bashing a “short-fingered vulgarian” and his “lying, bullying tweets,” concluding with his bird obsession and global warming, the “biggest issue in all of human history.” In “Why Birds Matter,” Franzen lovingly describes falcons, roadrunners, and albatrosses, among others. “Wild birds matter,” Franzen writes, because “they are our last, best connection to a natural world that is otherwise receding.” In another piece, the author describes his visit to South America to observe the beleaguered Amazon Conservation Association in action. In “May Your Life Be Ruined,” he chronicles his travels to Egypt to painfully watch migratory bird-killing with Bedouin falcon trappers. There’s literature here, too. In the expected writer-to-writers advice essay, he offers up one page of 10 pithy, odd dos and don’ts—e.g., “You see more sitting still than chasing after.” Franzen resuscitates Edith Wharton, praising her “most generously realized” The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth, in which she “embraces her new-fashioned divorce plot as zestfully as Nabokov embraces pedophilia in Lolita.” There’s also the affectionate “A Friendship,” in which the author praises William Vollmann’s work ethic, vast projects, fine style, and “hunger for beautiful form.” The last, titular essay about a voyage to Antarctica is worth the cover price.

Witty, reflective, opinionated essays from a writer with the ability to “laugh in dark times.”

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-14793-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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