Tuesday, November 04, 2008

State by State

Most folks I know are nervous, anxious, antsy, expectant and a whole bunch of other adjectives that spell out hopes that Americans will make history today. No, not by electing the oldest president ever. America is a great place, full of amazing folks doing incredible things, but sometimes y'all make some strange decisions. But then again, I suppose we do as well, up north of the 49th.
A great new book that goes a way in explaining America is State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America. Editors Matt Weiland, and Sean Wilsey cajoled essays about all 50 states from 50 writers - novelists, journalists, essayists, including Dave Eggers on Illinois, Rick Moody on Connecticut, Jhumpa Lahiri on Rhode Island and Jonathan Franzen on New York. Alberta's neighbour, Montana, is covered by Sarah Vowell (whose interesting new book, The Wordy Shipmates, looks at the Puritans and their influence on America). There's a real variety in the pieces, including the Vermont chapter, done graphic novel style by Alison Bechdel (Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic).
Powell's Bookstore picked State by State for the third in their series of book promotional films, "Out of the Book". 19 of the books' writers gathered on a sunny day to read from and talk about their selections for the 38 minute film. The trailer starts with Anthony Bourdain on New Jersey:

Weiland and Wilsey collaborated before, editing the excellent soccer book, The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup, which had 32 writers on the 32 nations at the 2006 World Cup. Wilsey is also the author of the memoir, Oh the Glory of it All.

**Edit - November 21. I can't resist adding the photo below of Sean Wilsey presenting soon-to-be-elected Barack Obama a copy of State by State at a function two weeks before the election. Photo (with a brief interview with Wilsey) from the LA Times book blog, Jacket Copy.


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