- Paperback: 236 pages
- Publisher: Magic Theater Books (March 16, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0986293490
- ISBN-13: 978-0986293498
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,666,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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American Rococo: Essays on the Edge Paperback – March 16, 2017
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About the Author
American essayist and novelist based in China since 1994. Writing philosophy: downmarket, big concept, provocative, discriminating, outrageous, creepy, sordid. Ballard, Beckett, Borges, Dick, Kafka, Hesse, Melville, Mishima, Sade are influences.
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American novelist and essayist Isham Cook scores quite well in all three respects. His latest book, ‘American Rococo: Essays on the Edge’ is nothing if not eclectic, containing reflections on subjects ranging from the smartphone to Noh theatre, from John Dowland to Philip Glass and from Airbnb to atheists. Several essays are, however, connected by an interest in the human body, covering topics including sexually transmitted disease in Shakespearean London, Japanese konyoku onsen (nude mixed-bathing hot springs), and the features of People of Walmart. Indeed, in the essay which gives the book its title, Cook finds a “peculiarly American … rococo beauty” in the fleshy swirls of the morbidly obese.
This is characteristic of Cook’s willingness to shock and provoke. Sometimes this can work well. Any American teenager tempted to sext would certainly refrain from doing so after reading Cook’s account of how American sex laws (notably the Adam Walsh Child Act of 2006) actually work.
On the other hand, Cook can easily tip into preachiness (condemning monogamy in ‘My Problem with Atheists’) or even downright silliness (‘The Brest Etiquette Project’).
In the end, whilst many are likely to be impressed by Cook’s scholarship (for example in challenging the standard account of the development of the English language) at least as many are likely to be alienated by what they take to be his libertarian, or even libertine, views.
So, I obviously find his voice both lacking and annoying. While I will stand behind what I wrote above I also know that many will find some substance in the essays simply because they hear his voice different from the way I do. If you have never read Cook and for some reason you want to (I don't mean that negatively, I just mean that perhaps someone recommended him so you want to read him) I don't think this is a particularly bad book to start with. The things he touches on that are more narrative and less pseudo-intellectual posturing are quite interesting. If they cause you to consider them independent of the essay then you will have gained something. If you're a fan or at least have liked his other work then I see nothing in this volume that would likely cause you to dislike it, so I would recommend this to you as well. If you have not liked his previous work or you have no compelling reason to read this then I would suggest reading almost anything else available, especially if you want to be mentally stimulated and challenged to (re)consider ideas or events.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
The title essay made me smile when he talked about the “variety” of customers that shop at Walmart and how the “obese” are praiseworthy for their carelessness about their appearances. I rarely go to Walmart and when I do there’s always a shortage of shoppers or the “uniques” are absent but this is not the first source of this idea that I stumbled upon. It tickled me that Cook brushes aside the negative side of it and lauds these people for their confidence in their bodies. Heck, I would do so too since I am not perfect and whoever polices people on their shopping looks ought to be chastised for their shallowness. Who gives right? This is why I trust Cook and his essays the more. (Also, he goes on to compare fatness with the rococo style…haha).
I recommend this collection to everyone who wants to learn a new angle about certain topics. I recommend it to those readers who love the arts too since there is a good ladle of essays about music and the visual arts in this gem. I assure you the ideas and views of this author will force you to keep on reading to discover fresh points of views. I guarantee you that you will not be wasting your money and that once the book is over you’ll smile, shake your head, and acknowledge Cook for his interesting views. I did and it was a great feeling on this sunny day of June 2017!
Most recent customer reviews
Rococo may be defined as “ornate or florid in speech, literary style, etc.”. The author begins by going into the Byzantine scrolls and nuances of law as it...Read more
On the positive, If you are clever enough to decifer what Cook is saying then there is enough...Read more