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Notes from No Man's Land: American…

Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays

by Eula Biss

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142684,396 (4.25)3
  1. 10
    The Balloonists by Eula Biss (Maiasaura)
  2. 00
    Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion (Emydidae)
  3. 00
    Halls of Fame: Essays by John D'Agata (Maiasaura)
  4. 00
    Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent by Thomas Glave (nsblumenfeld)
    nsblumenfeld: Two authors with very different backgrounds and styles, but they share an incredibly humanistic view of the world.

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Essays about whiteness, and the precarious ways in which white Americans play out their guilt and denial. Some great moments in here, although some of the essays are too short to work up a real head of steam. Also some real shockers, as when Biss talks about starting out to write an essay about telephone poles and then changing when so many of the newspaper stories she found using the words in the first few decades of the twentieth century were about lynchings. ( )
1 vote rivkat | May 25, 2016 |
I kinda seesawed on this one, largely depending on how fractured her storytelling was. The best essays cover race in a deeply personal yet informed way, but without a strong subject to animate an essay, she kinda lapses back into pointillist storytelling that tries to coax deeper meaning out of a mishmash of anecdotes. There's (rightly) a backlash against the myth of a singular MFA style, but goddamn, Biss doesn't help matters by going into classic University of Iowa lyrical-realist style at every opportunity she gets. Though her prose is almost always great, sometimes it just disguises meaningless nonsense. When she's good, she's GOOD—but that's not the case far too often. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
I picked up this book because it was selected as the University of Kansas's inaugural "Common Book" read. I was also encouraged by the enthusiastic review from Sherman Alexie, whose writing I enjoy. This is definitely an insightful, thought-provoking, and well-crafted collection of essays, but also uneven. I believe this stems from Biss's use of two distinct essay styles: one, a more traditional narrative approach where the ideas are fleshed out and woven into a larger cohesive point, and another format which I call verbal montage. Here Biss simply presents small prose snippets, each creating a specific image, one after the other. It is up to the reader try to process this chain of images into a more cohesive narrative. While I admire her willingness to stretch beyond the traditional style, I unfortunately found the effect to be, at best, disjointed or unclear, and at worst, ham-handed. At times it was like the literary equivalent of watching someone's travel slides out of order with limited or no commentary. However, highlights like "Goodbye to All That", "Black News", and "Is this Kansas" more than make up for the one-offs. Overall, a worthwhile read. ( )
1 vote jellyfishjones | Nov 12, 2012 |
This is a heartbreaking, necessary book. I rarely cry when reading, but Eula Biss had me bawling. Her writing is gorgeous; her topics, wrenching. A must-read on the topic of racism in America. ( )
  Maiasaura | May 16, 2011 |
These essays pack a punch, particularly the first one that starts as a straightforward essay about telephone poles - until you hit a list of black men who were lynched off of telephone poles. It’s like hitting a wall. I think it’s really hard for most white people to look at their own life through the lens of racism in America, and most, quite frankly, choose not to. To make it public like this - Ms. Biss is a brave woman and a wonderful writer. ( )
1 vote twonickels | Nov 12, 2010 |
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For my baby, who doesn't have a name yet.
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"Of what use is such an invention?" the New York World asked shortly after Alexander Graham Bell first demonstrated his telephone in 1976.
This system was designed specifically for the education of freed slaves, and established public education in America as the method we use to manage large populations of our own people who frighten us. (p. 45)
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