Sublime Physick: Essays

Patrick Madden. Univ. of Nebraska, $24.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-8032-3984-5
Like many essayists before him, Madden (Quotidiana) makes a habit of finding the transcendent in the transient. In this new, sometimes moving collection, he ranges over topics including spit, plagiarism, empathy, and middle age. Reflecting on the fleeting nature of time, Madden invokes Charles Lamb’s observation that he treasures bygone moments like a “miser’s farthings.” All of life, he observes, comes down to time: “The things we do to fill it may bring us joy or sorrow, may leave an imprint on memory or meld into our general perceptions or flow off into oblivion.” In the longest and most complex essay, “Independent Redundancy,” Madden shows how writers often unknowingly incorporate the words, sentences, and even style of others into their own writing. His examples, including the great Renaissance essayist Michel de Montaigne, the modern-day essayist Annie Dillard, and the rock group Pavement, illustrate how necessary it is for authors to recognize their own influences. Madden’s work combines elegance with a bumptiousness, illustrating the messy character of human language and lives. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/30/2015
Release date: 02/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 978-0-8032-8546-0
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