With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today s most powerful and original voices. Read more...
With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today s most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushbackwhen it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America developed on pillage.
Persuasive and provocative, erudite yet accessible, Known and Strange Things is an opportunity to live within Teju Cole s wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and a chance to see the world in surprising and affecting new frames.
Praise for Known and Strange Things
On every level of engagement and critique, Known and Strange Thingsis an essential and scintillating journey. Claudia Rankine, The New York Times Book Review(Editors Choice)
Brilliant . . . Known and Strange Things] reveals Cole s extraordinary talent and his capacious mind. Time
Cole is] one of the most vibrant voices in contemporary writing. LA Times
Teju] Cole has fulfilled the dazzling promise of his novelsEvery Day Is for the ThiefandOpen City. He ranges over his interests with voracious keenness, laser-sharp prose, an open heart and a clear eye. The Guardian
Remarkably probing essays . . . Cole is one of only a very few lavishing his focused attention on that most approachable (and perhaps therefore most overlooked) art form, photography. Chicago Tribune
There s almost no subject Cole can t come at from a startling angle. . . . His is a] prickly, eclectic, roaming mind. The Boston Globe
A] dazzlingly wide-ranging collection. San Francisco Chronicle
Cole] brings a subtle, layered perspective to all he encounters whether it s photographs, books, foreign countries, or Internet memes. The collected essays ofKnown and Strange Thingsoffer a glimpse of a roving mind in action. Vanity Fair
Erudite and wide-ranging . . . Mr. Cole proves himself a modern Renaissance man, interweaving experience and opinion in rigorous yet conversational pieces that illuminate the arts. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Teju Cole proves the twenty-first-century essay is in fine fettle. . . . In page after page, Cole upholds the sterling virtue of good writing combined with emotional and intellectual engagement. The New Statesman
Personal and probing considerations of life and art . . . Known and Strange Thingspossesses] a passion for justice, a deep sympathy for the poor and the powerless around the world, and a fiery moral outrage. Poets and Writers"
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-05-23
- Reviewer: Staff
Three experiences structure this first nonfiction collection from novelist Cole (Every Day Is for the Thief). The first section, “Reading Things,” offers appreciations of writers, among them Tomas Tranströmer, Sonali Deraniyagala, André Aciman, Ivan Vladislavic, and, especially, W.G. Sebald, whose work raises the same ethical questions Cole asks time and again. The second, “Seeing Things,” explores the work of visual artists, primarily photographers, from places as different as Mali, Russia, France, and South Africa, and casts keen-eyed scrutiny upon photography itself. Cole’s tripartite structure concludes with “Being There.” Throughout, Cole forges unexpected connections, as in “Unnamed Lake,” in which, over the course of one sleepless night, his mind wanders over different historical moments: a Nazi performance of Beethoven at the opening of the extermination camp in Belzec, Poland (1942); the death of the last Tasmanian tiger (1936); a military coup in Nigeria (1966); a ferry disaster in Bangladesh (2014); and the atomic bombing of Nagasaki (1945). Cole is a literary performance artist, his words meticulously chosen and deployed with elegance and force. To read, see, and travel with him is to be changed by the questions that challenge him. As he observes of one writer, “The pleasure of reading him resides in the pleasure of his company”; the same may well be said of Cole. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Aug.)