Essays from the Nick of Time: Reflections and Refutations

Mark Slouka, Author
Mark Slouka, Graywolf, $16 trade paper (194p) ISBN 978-1-55597-571-5
Reviewed on: 10/11/2010
Release date: 10/01/2010
Ebook - 208 pages - 978-1-55597-014-7
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Citing E.B. White's comment on Thoreau, Harper's contributing editor Slouka describes his efforts, as Thoreau did, to navigate the impulse to both celebrate and fix the world. The essays in this powerful collection are divided into two sections: the more personal "Reflections" and the more political "Refutations"—but Slouka is never an either/or writer. In "Blood on the Tracks," for example, he works backwards from a horrific train accident in Connecticut to unravel the lives of the victims, the media's fleeting obsession with tragedy, and his own tenuous connection to the story. "Historical Vertigo," from 2003, juxtaposing time spent in Prague with his first introduction to e-mail, still resonates in an era of text-messaging and Twitter. Some of Slouka's sharpest political barbs are reserved for former President George W. Bush, particularly in "Quitting the Paint Factory" and "Democracy and Deference." But it is perhaps the somber "One Year Later"—written on the first anniversary of September 11 for Harper's—that stands above the rest in this fearless collection as Slouka wrestles with the sense of exceptionalism and lack of historical context that characterized so many Americans' response to tragedy. (Nov.)
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