Known and Strange Things

Known and Strange Things


eBook - 2016
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A blazingly intelligent first book of essays from the award-winning author of Open City and Every Day Is for the Thief

Time * The Guardian * Harper's Bazaar * San Francisco Chronicle * The Atlantic * Financial Times * Kirkus

Finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and PEN/Jean Stein Book Award

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 pushback when 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 Things is an essential and scintillating journey." --Claudia Rankine, The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)

"A heady mix of wit, nostalgia, pathos, and a genuine desire to untangle the world, or at the least, to bask in its unending riddles." -- The Atlantic

"Brilliant . . . [ Known and Strange Things ] reveals Cole's extraordinary talent and his capacious mind." -- Time

"[ Known and Strange Things ] showcases the magnificent breadth of subjects [Cole] is able to plumb with . . . passion and eloquence." -- Harper's Bazaar

"[Cole is] one of the most vibrant voices in contemporary writing." -- LA Times

"Cole has fulfilled the dazzling promise of his novels Every Day Is for the Thief and Open 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

"[Cole] brings a subtle, layered perspective to all he encounters." -- Vanity Fair

"In page after page, Cole upholds the sterling virtue of good writing combined with emotional and intellectual engagement." -- The New Statesman

"[ Known and Strange Things possesses] a passion for justice, a deep sympathy for the poor and the powerless around the world, and a fiery moral outrage." -- Poets and Writers
Publisher: New York :, Random House,, 2016.
ISBN: 9780812989793
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file,rda
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor
Alternative Title: Essays. Selections

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Sep 20, 2016

The victim, by continuing to suffer, irritates the oppressor, who would rather be already past it.

Sep 18, 2016

Authorship, after all, is not only what is created, but what is selected.

Sep 18, 2016

Google is incessantly productive and very enthusiastic about itself. The company's bright-eyed but curiously unreassuring motto is "Don't Be Evil."

Sep 18, 2016

Few things are more mysterious than someone else's favorite film. To hear it named is to be puzzled. You appreciate its merits but not how it can be preferable to all others. Perhaps your favorite film isn't the one that you like best but the one that likes you best. It confirms you on first encounter, and goes onto shape you in some irreversible way. Often, you first see it when you're young, but not too young, and on each subsequent viewing it is a home to which you return.


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Sep 11, 2017

A collection of essays, mostly previously published in "The New Yorker". For me, the essays on photography were least interesting, with many references to obscure artists. Many essays were interesting, but some of the writing is pretentious.

Mar 27, 2017

Unbelievably good-- so diverse, smart, curious, and just plain interesting. I returned the book to the library and immediately bought a copy for my home library. I imagine I will reach for it-- and reread-- often.

Sep 20, 2016

This is a stunning collection of essays, erudite and full of unexpected connections. It's grouped in three sections, on literature; photography; and travel, place and politics. Personally I found the essays on literature and race the most engrossing, but I'm glad someone is thinking so deeply on how social media is changing photography. Every piece is deeply felt and elegantly written, but standouts include "Black Body" ( a meditation on James Baldwin), "A True Picture of Black Skin," "Brazilian Earth," and "Angels in Winter" (on Rome and Italy). Highly recommended, especially for those who loved Rebecca Solnit's The Faraway Nearby.

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