cover image Neck Deep and Other Predicaments

Neck Deep and Other Predicaments

Ander Monson, Author . Graywolf $15 (191p) ISBN 978-1555974596

This esoteric collection, awarded the second annual Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize, is described by contest judge Robert Polito as “astonishing,” a “dismantling and reinvention of the essay as an instrument for thought.” Readers are bound to agree; in his first nonfiction book, poet and novelist Monson (Vacationland ) offers a parade of quirky, at times avant-garde methods for exploring his obsessions with everything from Frisbee golf (“The Long Crush”) to car washes (“The Big and Sometimes Colored Foam: Four Annotated Car Washes”) to the lost art of sending telegrams (“Afterword: Elegy for Telegram and Starflight ”). He pits working-class values against those of Michigan's suburban upper crust—grappling with his own point throughout—in “Cranbrook Schools: Adventures in Bourgeois Topologies,” an ironic, seminostalgic look at his preexpulsion years in an elite boarding school. In “Outline Toward a Theory of the Mine Versus the Mind and the Harvard Outline,” a well-crafted outline unpacks the history of mining in northern Michigan. “Index for X and the Origin of Fires” is perhaps the best of the bunch; Monson explains it in his notes as “the original index to my novel, Other Electricities , before it was trimmed out and became this something else. One hopes it still refers to a (or the) recognizable world.” Wonderfully recondite and cunningly executed, Monson's work will make a brilliant discovery for open-minded fans of narrative nonfiction. (Feb.)