May 15, 2016 Booklist 11 www.booklistonline.com
a sense of humor, and live life to the fullest.
Hogs Wild: Selected Reporting
By Ian Frazier.
June 2016. 384p. Farrar, $26 (9780374298524). 814.
Offer Frazier’s (Travels in Siberia, 2010)
latest brilliant essay collection to anyone
who agrees, or even disagrees for that matter, since they will be refuted by the evidence
found here, with the adage that good writing transcends genre. In this case, good
means interesting subject matter articulately presented in exciting
language. Frazier gives his
curiosity about people and
places full rein on a vast
number of topics, and with
his wide-ranging depth
of knowledge and joyous
powers of observation and
reasoning, his essays pique,
teach, and entertain, all that any reader can
ask for. The title essay is a masterpiece; after all, who but Frazier could make us sit
up and take notice of the country’s problematic infestation of wild pigs? “Hungry
Minds” explores a writing workshop held
every Wednesday afternoon in a New York
church. And “The Unsettling Legacy of General Shrapnel” offers a compelling revelation
of the man after whom exploding projectiles
were named. Readers will want to read the
collection straight through and then go back
and reread favorites, which just might mean
the whole collection. —Brad Hooper
It Gets Worse: A Collection of Essays.
By Shane Dawson.
July 2016. 256p. Atria/Keywords, paper, $16
He’s baaack. YouTube vlogger Dawson
returns with a second collection of autobiographical essays (following I Hate Myselfie,
2015). His many fans (his You Tube channel has more than seven million subscribers)
will enjoy his musings about his life from
childhood, when he was morbidly obese, to
his latter-day celebrity as a slimmed-down
TV reality star and film director. The 13 essays collected here are a mixed bag; most,
rooted in self-deprecation and hyperbole,
are humorous, but some are quite moving.
In one, he encounters the ghost of his beloved grandmother; in another, he records
the bittersweet experience of producing his
first public video; in yet another, wrestling
with his sexuality—he has come out as
bisexual—he tries to engineer his first sexual
encounter with a male met on Craigslist;
and, in the most personal of his essays, he
records his five-year struggle with bulimia.
When all is said and done, how funny are
these essays? On a humor scale of 1 to 10,
1 being meh and 10 being a hoot, Dawson’s
essays earn a solid 7. —Michael Cart
YA: Teen fans of David Sedaris will enjoy
Dawson’s perky essays. MC.
By Jessica Valenti.
June 2016. 288p. Harper/Dey Street, $25.99
Founder of the blog, feministing.com,
Guardian columnist Valenti (The Purity Myth,
2009) dissects the misogyny she encountered
growing up and its formative role in making
her the outspoken feminist and activist she is
today. From discovering she was an object of
male desire to being ejaculated on while riding
the subway to receiving shocking hate mail as
her writing became popular (those vitriolic e-mails and Twitter and Facebook posts appear
in the appendix), Valenti describes her experiences with candor and seriocomic humor while
offering continually entertaining quips, such as,
“ignoring men—whether romantically or rhetorically—is existential violence to them.” Her
memoir changes pace when Valenti discusses
her near-death experience while delivering her
daughter, Layla, who was three months premature. Layla’s miraculous recovery and Valenti’s
anxiety-ridden days of early motherhood strike
an unexpected chord, adding much more than
pithy insight to this radical feminist’s life story.
An entertaining and shocking memoir from a
leading feminist writer. —Sarah Grant
YA/M: Mature teens curious about sex
and feminism will find Valenti forthright,
informative, and entertaining. SG.
This Is Not My Beautiful Life.
By Victoria Fedden.
June 2016. 400p. Picador, paper, $16 (9781250075284);
e-book (9781250075291). 818.
Nine months pregnant, suffering from anxiety, and stressed out over the renovation of
her house, Fedden opens her mother’s door in
southern Florida to a DEA team with a search
warrant. What follow in this biting memoir
are the travails of a self-absorbed family led
by two criminals (mother and stepfather) who
believe they are only guilty of getting ahead
in a country that doesn’t actually appreciate
financial success. Their crimes involve illegal
stock trades and a “pump-and-dump” scheme
that enriched them while impoverishing others. As the federal indictments come down and
the court case progresses, Fedden recounts her
own escalating depression and fear. This is a
family which, as do so many popular reality-television clans, excels at outrageous behavior,
including loud parties, questionable relationships, and a firm belief in the healing powers
of shopping, and while it’s all supposed to
be funny, the glaring absence of conscience
is hard to ignore. Still, Fedden’s true story of
crime, comeuppance, and toughing it out will
appeal to all devotees of scandalous endeavors
and tabloid tales. —Colleen Mondor
The View from the Cheap Seats.
By Neil Gaiman.
May 2016. 544p. Morrow, $26.99 (9780062262264);
e-book (9780062262288). 824.
Made up of introductions to other authors’
books, speeches, and newspaper articles, in-
cluding interviews Gaiman conducted, this
is what used to be called a book of fugitive
writings, short pieces that would otherwise
have escaped book publication under their
author’s name. Except for the half-dozen in
the last part (which contains the title piece,
on attending an Oscars ceremony), they’re
about the stuff of Gaiman’s vocation as a
writer—prose fiction, movies, and comics—
and a few rock singer-songwriters. Beyond
that, they’re basically about fantasy stories
and storytelling, imaginative (made-up) as
opposed to mimetic (realistic) literature. If
that makes them sound ponderous, well, rest
assured, they’re witty, comical, lighthearted,
enthusiastic, personal without egoism, en-
tertaining even at their most serious. They
acquaint us with entire rosters of fantasy
writers and their best books, with the most
revered superhero- and fantasy-comics cre-
ators, and with how comics and movies
relate—and don’t. The speeches among them
are the best kind of pep talking to gatherings
of fellow comics creators, fantasy writers,
and those two bands-of-colleagues’ great
enablers, comics distributors and librarians.
Delicious. —Ray Olson
White Sands: Experiences from the
By Geoff Dyer.
May 2016. 256p. illus. Pantheon, $25 (9781101870860);
e-book (9781101870860). 824.
Reasons to read Dyer, a critic, novelist,
and creative nonfiction writer with a clutch
of prestigious awards: he is an exhilaratingly
superb stylist who uses his literary might and
artistic and cultural erudition to express irreverent and irascible opinions and philosophical
musings. And when he is in travelogue mode,
as he is here, his observations are stunning in
their candor about disappointment (his heart,
he tells us, “is prone to sinking”) and acidly
hilarious. Dyer interleaves brief tributes to
natural places that shaped his young British
self with accounts of far-flung pilgrimages
in which he brazenly mixes fact and fiction.
His journey to Tahiti on the centenary of
painter Gauguin’s death engenders a ruefully
funny dismantling of the myth of paradise.
A quest to see the northern lights is another
extravagant exercise in smashed expectations.
A retina-scorching trip to White Sands, New
Mexico, turns into a tense tale about a hitchhiker. Wherever he goes (Watts Towers, the
Forbidden City), Dyer reports on the glorious
complexities of both outer and inner worlds
with acerbity, delving intelligence, and disarming and profound wit. —Donna Seaman
By Chinaka Hodge.
June 2016. 60p. City Lights, paper, $13.95
(9780872867024); e-book (9780872867253). 811.
The lyrical exuberance of poet and playwright Hodge has been showcased on stage
and on screen, including many appearances