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State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America Hardcover – September 16, 2008
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Without leaving home or spending a cent on gas, readers of this book can enjoy a scenic view of the entire U.S. that is as familiar as it is disorienting. Weiland, deputy editor of the Paris Review, and Wilsey, editor-at-large for McSweeney's, have gathered a group of 50 disparate voices to explore not just their experience in America, but the way each state was presented in the American Guide series of the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s, in which the Works Project Administration (WPA), as part of F.D.R's New Deal, put more than 6000 American writers to work creating a portrait of this country. The editors wanted to make a book inspired by the ideals behind the WPA Guides but they also wanted something more personal, more eccentric, and more partial. Obvious heavy-hitters—Dave Eggars (Illinois), Rick Moody (Connecticut), Jhumpa Lahiri (Rhode Island), Barry Hannah (Mississippi), William T. Vollmann (California)—are included, as well as some wonderful surprises. Alison Bechdel's illustrated story about her life after moving to Vermont brilliantly combines personal history with historical fact, as does Charles Bock's essay on growing up and working in his parent's Las Vegas pawnshop. Mohammed Naseehu Ali's tale of life in Michigan, after moving there from Ghana as a teen, illuminates what the unconditionally generous Michigan nature shares with the traditions of his own Hausa-Islamic culture. And Franzen's imaginary interview with the state of New York is perhaps the high point among this collection of beguiling summations of something all the writers share: a love-hate relationship with how their chosen state has changed and evolved during the course of their lives. (Sept.)
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“[State by State] is a funny, moving, rousing collection, greater than the sum of its excellent parts, a convention of literary superdelegates, each one boisterously nominating his or her piece of the Republic.” (New York Times Book Review)
“This fascinating collection, inspired by guides in the 1930s and 1940s, includes original essays on each of the states by some of the country’s finest (mostly younger) writers.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
“Self-consciously modeled after state guides sponsored by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, this ambitious effort features a terrific roster of writers.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Fascinating.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
“Odds are, reading STATE BY STATE, that you’ll fall for every state a little, even if they remain tremendously hard to explain.” (Los Angeles Times)
“This eclectic collection of essays describing the ordinary people and places within our 50 states is as essential as the Rand McNally atlas. Alternately brash and bashful...each literary foray in State by State is well worth the trip. Grade: A.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“An enjoyable journey: 50 essays, cartoons and mini-plays, plus an afterward about Washington, DC and a fascinating appendix…all in all, it makes one yearn for a driver’s license and a stretch of open highway.” (New York Post)
“Ideal nightstand reading and a welcome reminder of the pluribus behind the unum.” (Salon.com)
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Surely this is no great book but it has a fascination. Fifty contemporary writers piece together essays on each of the 50 states. The concept is attention-catching. The editors no doubt are themselves disappointed by some of the results - some of the writers miss their mark widely. If the essays were not in this collection, some would not be recognized as portraits of a state. Kansas is incidental to Jim Lewis' essay, which is more closely focused on the Coyote Club at Wichita. Philip Connors offers a close (and slightly bitter) look at Minnesota's southwest corner, which is rarely a part of Minnesota literature.
"State by State" would bring little to someone (an immigrant) seeking to learn more of America. If you know the land, however, if you know the territory, you will not feel cheated. Often you may be moved to mutter to a writer, "You should be able to do better than this."
be concerned mostly with a history of all of our states. If you
just want ordinary life of the citizens of the states, then you
will enjoy this book. In thata vein, probably the most interesting
was the one on Massachusetts by John Hodgman-very amusing.
Some of the essays are long, while some are fairly short. Some cover large geographical areas and some cover minute portions of the state. And each has a particular slant about the state that is unique to each essay. From covering life along the Merritt Parkway as a youth in Connecticut to living in the desert in Arizona, each essay presents a look into the wonders of the state that you won't find in any other form of travel writing.
Having lived in a number of states, and having traveled to all of them rather extensively, I can attest to the creativity and unique look that each essay provides at each of the states. In many cases, I was getting nostalgic and reliving the memories I had of a particular state. I was reminded of why each state is different, but also so similar.
While you may not like every essay, and I am sure each person will find a few to love and a few to hate, varying by the individual reader, this book is a great look at the United States. If, like me, you like short stories and essays, this will be a book you will treasure. I highly recommend this book to all, as it is a wonderful way to learn about the country without leaving the comfort of your home.