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A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2002
I bought this collection from Amazon without any knowledge whatsoever of its contents or scope: I had read some Weschler pieces years and years ago with great profit, and after having randomly encountered his "Mr Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder" recently, wanted to re-acquaint myself with his work. Imagine then my shock and delighted astonishment to find "Wanderer In The Perfect City" to be an almost complete re-issue of his "Shapinsky's Karma, Boggs' Bills," a beautifully made volume (printed by the North Point Press, seemingly defunct now, alas) of beautifully written "passion pieces," so-called in that they're focussed on artists singularly focussed (alternates: obsessed; crazed) upon a visionary (alt. quirky; really quirky) purpose that consumes and sustains their lives, their artistic being. A better review than this one would now list some examples of what I've just written, but unfortunately for you I'm only writing this review; and to be honest, a list of "those kooky artists and their kooky dreams!" would be a disservice to the sympathetic care Weschler employs in these portraits.
Reading the original edition of "Shapinsky's Karma, Bogg's Bills" was one of my watershed discoveries made at the time of life when everything is a discovery. "Shapinsky's Karma..." was an eye-opener for me, an inspiration; it was also the second hardcover book I'd ever bought, a weighty commitment for a boy like me, but a most fortuitous one. (The first hardcover I ever bought was "Heretics of Dune." _That_ wasn't nearly as inspirational.)
Coming across "Shapinsky's Karma..." again in this new form and fourteen years later, is therefore an occasion of some contemplation and a little rue: to remember the impressionable kid I first reading that beautifully blue tome; and to see it again in this perfectly fine edition, a little faded, a little dated. Some of its subjects who languished in relative obscurity back in 1988 have become well-known, like Boggs and Spiegelman; a great many others seem to have simply faded away. Perhaps this is an indirect demonstration of passion and its curatives, its flutterings and gutterings.
This new edition differs from the original in that the 1988 piece on Mark Boggs has been pulled; Weschler has expanded it into book-length. It's been supplanted with a piece on, I think, Ben Katchor, or whoever the "Mr. Knipl" cartoonist is.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2006
The one thing that strikes me most about Weschler's writing is that he allows his subjects to talk. His quotes are long. One good thing about this is that the reader really gets to know the subjects well. It's almost like a Q&A format. Thus, there is very little room for subjective opinions in Weschler's writing; he tells it like it is.

This style leads, ultimately, to long articles -- one is almost 70 pages, the length of a short novella -- each naunce of the topic is covered from multiple perspectives, giving the reader a complete picture.

My favorite article in the book is about a former rocket scientist turned Wall Street broker turned circus clown. Weschler chronicles the decision of one MIT grad to live his life-long dream of attending clown school. Along the way, Weschler convolves Aerospace engineering, bond trading, and circus performing, and allows the reader to see why each activity is just as difficult as the next.

Recommended for all aspiring non-fiction writers. Study the craft of Lawrence Weschler!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2013
Weschler is an American Treasure and these essays reveal he has an eye and a heart for the little tales that give life meaning. "Slonimsky's Failure" alone is worth the price of admission. Like all the "used" books I have received through Amazon, this paperback copy is indistinguishable from a"new" copy.
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on November 7, 2014
I would not have read this book unless a friend gave me his copy - the title was vague and the cover nondescript (It was the 1998 edition). That being said, I really enjoyed the read. I was familiar with many of the artists - Abstract Expressionist painter Harold Shapinsky, cartoonist and Maus author Art Spiegelman, musical genius Nicolas Slominsky, Louisiana Museum of Copenhagen's founder and director Knud Jensen, and cartoonist Ben Katchor. The well-written back stories about these people were fascinating.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 1999
In this book the author writes nonfiction articles about various interesting characters. He talks to an art promoter, a cartoonist and all sorts of others. The art promoter was an Indian who discover an unknown abstract expressionist in New York, and gets him know in the art world. It's a strange thing how it works out. There is something funky, and offbeat about all these characters, but what is really cool about the authors writing, is that it is very easy too imagine what these people are like. Very cool book.
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