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The Lost Work of Wasps: An Essay With 243 Titles Paperback – September 27, 2012
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About the Author
David Marshall is a high school English teacher in Chicago and the author of Signals to Attend, a popular blog on Wordpress. A visual artist as well as an essayist and poet, Marshall also created the illustrations within the essay and the cover art.
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I have not finished the book but after reading most of it, I can say that David is an excellent writer. Beyond the patterning suggested by Yoshida Kenko, it reminds me of the glass bead game in the novel of the same name by Thomas Mann in which the principle of the game is to draw together elements from diverse disciplines to make a unitary picture of beauty. David draws in memories, science, literature, philosophy and more to paint a picture of our lives not altogether unremoved from that recurring wasp nest.
Well done.The Lost Work of Wasps: An Essay With 243 Titles
What I didn't foresee was how transformed his jeweled insights--which I previously experienced in serial form over time--have become by taking up residence in a book. Using the template of Kenko's 14th century collection of brief essays, Tsurezuregusa, Marshall has found a perfect container for a wide angle mind and eye. Combined with his own drawings--he calls them "doodles"--the book can be read in a linear fashion or in random access, Hafiz style. While this format may sound a bit too clever, it is neither manipulative nor misused. It allows for the pleasures I have found on his blog to be easily accessed in my hands.
For anyone who has a proclivity towards meaning, contemplation, thoughtful insight and the grace of an open mind, this book is one that you can turn to again and again. I am in such awe of this accomplishment, and so grateful Marshall moved his voice into yet another form.
Marshall's writing is by turns tender, wise, vulnerable, philosophical, poetic and often all of these at once. The elliptical movement of Marshall's "essay" is reminiscent of all that I love in Lyn Hejinian's ode to memory "My Life." His short stories remind me of the writing of Lydia Davis in collections like "Almost No Memory"--rich, elusive, and evocative.
Like a wasp's nest, Marshall's book is made of many adjacent and connected chambers. Like a wasp's nest, it is made of paper. And like the work of wasps, it will almost certainly be lost one day. His book begins with a poetic mediation on Pioneer 10, the space probe we launched in the direction of "Ross 248 in the Constellation of Taurus" forty years ago. On that probe, NASA included "a plaque with messages designed to make contact with possible alien civilizations." Marshall's paperback isn't so different in many ways. I hope his work isn't lost any time soon. I hope it makes contact with you.