2. There is no god.
3. We live in a digital culture.
4. Art is related to the body and to the culture.
5. Art should reflect these things.
6. Brevity rules. The book's 40 contributors include Donald Barthelme, Kate Chopin, Lydia Davis, Annie Dillard, Jonathan Safran Foer, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel, Jamaica Kincaid, Wayne Koestenbaum, Anne Lamott, Daphne Merkin, Rick Moody, Dinty W. Moore, George Orwell, Jayne Anne Phillips, George Saunders, Lauren Slater, James Tate, and Paul Theroux.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-09
- Reviewer: Staff
Rather than simply collecting stories and essays of exceptional quality and short length, this strange anthology also attempts to add the organizing conceit of human aging—and then tries to be a classroom text, including writing prompts in between chapters. Achieving all three of these goals is too much for the short pieces, although some of the essays are not all that short, up to 10 pages long. Many of the selections do glimmer, showcasing their ability to transmit depth and insight in few words. Standouts include Wayne Koestenbaum’s “My 1980s,” Rick Moody’s “Primary Sources,” and Annie Dillard’s response to 9/11, “This Is the Life.” Most of the stories and essays seem out of place in the “stage of life” chapters in which they are placed. For example, the section themed “You Are a Toddler” is also (confusingly) titled “Prose Poem” and includes one essay about a poet’s husband and another about being a stripper. The introductions, to each chapter and to the book itself, are tedious and bizarre, cryptically describing the short pieces in order to justify their inclusion. The collection aims to praise brevity, but lacks the clarity to explain its own necessity. (Apr.)