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Halls of Fame: Essays Paperback – April 1, 2003
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Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
But you'll be relieved to read in his biography that this extremely young author was trained as a poet at the Iowa Writers Workshop, because no average writer of "creative nonfiction" could manage what D'Agata does with subjects that range from a story about the brightest light in the world to a sperm bank (where he apparently worked as a donor) to a luscious history of how lists of the wonders of the world are made. His appetite for "stuff" seems unquenchable, and his love of language is obvious.
Really this is a 250 page book of poetry. Read it and you'll change your mind about that old fart genre called the essay. Read it aloud and you'll set the next few days of your life to music!
Then, at about half way through, you'll stop caring, because at this point you'll have reached the book's title section, "Hall of Fame: An Essay About the Ways in Which We Matter," a not entirely unironic meditation on the 3000 some-odd halls of fame in the United States which acts as both investigative journalism into some particular places the author has visited (there's a hall of fame of "Suffleboard" and a "Burlesque" hall of fame, for example) and personal meditation on the author's own family discord that is never quite clearly expressed but instead lingers overhead making all of these journeys into the halls of fame of America a very desperate, lonely, heartbreaking act.
I have no idea if these "halls" are poems (they look like poetry at least) nor what in the book is real and what imagined (there's an interview with the so-called president of the Flat Earth Society, for example) but I think the ambiguity of the book's forms is intentional, and meant to mask--or maybe even illustrate--an uncertainty in the world that this very mournful but simultaneously witty author feels deep in his bones. This is a tremendous book that is going to change the way essays are made from now on.
Or, if these in fact aren't "essays," it will at least change something in American literature.
But then again groundbreaking literature never has been...
This is not for those who think that the personal essay is the only kind of essay there is or who think The Liars Club is an exemplar of great nonfiction or that last year's outrageously hyped Dave Eggers is what an experimental nonfiction writer might look like.
This is for those readers who want to be challenged on every level of the reading, whether about the subjects the book treats or the styles it employs or the huge disarming issues it raises about the very nature of genre.
In general, for anyone who wants a glimpse at what essayists a decade from now will be writing, you must definitely read this amazing first book!
And if you get a chance to hear him in person read from this do it! I just heard this dude perform at my friend's school in Massacusetts and it was completely transportaive!
Suffice it to say, Henry Darger is now a very popular artist. You can't even get your hands on one of his paintings, let alone afford one! I've even heard that Hollywood has purchased the film rights to Darger's life, and that Leonardo di Caprio, god help us, has been considering playing the artist in the upcoming film!
In this crude rush to cash in on the popularity of Darger, only one telling of his life comes anywhere close to the reality (and absurdity) that best characterizes this artist. John D'Agata's long fragmented essay "Collage History of Art" is not only the best story of this artist's life I've ever read, it's one the greatest art biographies I think that's ever been written about an American painter.
The essay begins: "Pack: something with which to see." And with that we're off on what becomes a guided tour through both the fantastic, dangerous world of Darger's girls--complete with giant plants, winged dragons, and a moon called "Earth"!--as well as through Darger's own life and psyche.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I don't get it. So many people are so enthusiastic about John d'Agata's works. I tried and tried. But I still don't see the sense, or the worth, of it. What's going on? Read morePublished 8 months ago by Dog-the-Kid
I love this kind of erudite, thoughtful, poetic, contemporary voice. Really a beautiful, complex look at contemporary concerns.Published on February 16, 2009 by April L. Durham
It seems pretty clear that the world has gone insane, since this is in fact the WORST book ever written in nonfiction, instead of what the insane reviews on here are calling the... Read morePublished on August 31, 2004 by Book Gator
There are two duds in this book, the one about a college in the dessert, that I'm not sure even exists, but whatever, and the one about museums. Read morePublished on August 10, 2004 by Sean Erikson
Let me preface this by saying I was a classmate of John's at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the mid-90's. Read morePublished on January 12, 2004
Now that the hype is over, please can we finally agree that John D'Agata is 100% the worst writer this country has ever produced!Published on October 18, 2003
Let me give you the scoop on John D'Agata. I am a student of the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa. Before I came I made a point to read everyone's books. Read morePublished on September 12, 2003 by for me to know
If Halls of Fame is what publishers are calling literature these days, then I don't want to read another word of contemporary writing. Read morePublished on July 8, 2003
I discovered this book last semester in a course called Border Genres. It's categorized as "essays" but it's really a work of philosophy. Really excellent! Read morePublished on June 25, 2003 by james cooper