Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book Review: "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America" (2008)

c. David Grim (taken 3/7/09)

I haven't much felt like posting the lengthy book reviews on here that I used to write for my previous blog. I always thought that it would be nice to be able to look back on them and remember my experience with, and my thoughts about, the stuff I read. But I haven't revisited any of it yet, and I don't know if I ever will. For now, at least, it's not going anywhere.

This past week, though, I read something I'd like to recommend- "State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America", edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey. It's a diverse mix of highly personal essays about our 50 states (and a bit about DC as a bonus). I can't imagine that anyone could pick it up without learning a lot that they didn't already know. Plus, many of the individual anecdotes about the experiences of the authors are entertaining, and occasionally moving.

The project was inspired by a WPA initiative that saw some of the greatest writers of Depression-era America comment on our national heritage, and write guides for both edification and travel. The combined output exceeded 5000 pages, and constituted an effort representing a scale that far outstrips what the contributors of "State by State" have tried to accomplish.

Still I was astonished by the rich detail and quality writing of many of the authors, some of which I was already well familiar. With an anthology like this, you are bound to find your favorites, and be offended now and again. But that shouldn't put you off from finding this, and reading it as soon as you can.

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