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The personal essay boom of the past decade or so certainly makes sense as part of the ongoing explosion of internet content. The current landscape is ideally conducive to, well … talking about yourself, taking the old adage “Write what you know” to its most extreme logical conclusion.

This isn’t always a good thing. Too often, this sort of writing devolves into solipsism, a kind of self-celebratory navel-gazing that winds up reading equal parts indulgent and disingenuous. But on those occasions that it works, it’s as impactful as any formal autobiography, giving readers a glimpse at the kind of unexpected truth that can only come from someone else’s experience.

The essays in Lauren Hough’s new collection “Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing: Essays” (Vintage, $16.95) work. This selection of 11 stories drawn from Gough’s checkered and fascinating life coalesces in a remarkable way. Through these tales of a unique journey – a childhood spent in a cult leads to a turn in the military followed by a rough-and-tumble awakening of her sexuality, all while simply trying to understand the world in ways many of us take for granted.

Hough’s lacerating wit hits many targets, though none so often or so bitingly as herself. There’s a brutality to her honesty and to her self-deprecation that is compelling as hell to engage with. These alternatingly heartbreaking and hilarious tales stand strong on their own, but as a unit, they form a multi-faceted memoir-in-stories that is a true delight.

Published in Style

They say that history is written by the victors. But so too are the victors most often the ones written into history.

That fact is even truer in the sporting realm than it is elsewhere. By its very nature, sport is concerned with winners and losers. And while those who win are celebrated and lauded in the years that follow, their victory burnished by the sheer volume of memory – what of those who fall short? What of those who reach the pinnacle, only to be stopped just short.

“Losers: Dispatches from the Other Side of the Scorecard” (Penguin, $17) is a collection of pieces devoted to looking at those who never quite reached the top of the mountain. Edited by Mary Pilon and Louisa Thomas – both of whom also have work included within – this assemblage of essays spans more than a century of athletic near-misses.

All told, there are 22 pieces here, 14 of which are previously unpublished. Every one of them is devoted to exploring what it means to lose, to be beaten. The reasons behind their shortfalls vary – some are faced with legendary opposition, while others simply deal with a bad day or bad luck – but all of them find ways to reflect the impact of almost. Some of these stories are funny, while others are sad and still others inspire, but all of them together paint a portrait of the truth behind loss. It’s a compelling journey through the competitive landscape, with all manner of sport and athlete represented.

Published in Sports

As the constant churn of content generation becomes more and more a part of the creative landscape, the value of cultural criticism expands exponentially. Consuming art is important, but understanding the consequences of that consumption is vital as well.

Tom Bissell is one such cultural critic. His collection “Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation” (Vintage, $16.95) features essays whose subject matter runs the gamut from highbrow to lowbrow and back again, all delivered with a combination of insight and wit that provokes thought with a concise cleverness.

Throughout these 18 pieces, Bissell addresses artistic questions large and small. He rails against the artificial and embraces the genuine. He is very clear about what he likes … and VERY clear about what he does not. He’s not about pulling punches, but nor is he stingy with his praise. When it comes to art, love it or hate it, Tom Bissell is passionate about it.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 16 November 2016 13:40

Autobiographical Anna

Kendrick pens essay collection 'Scrappy Little Nobody'

Published in Style
Thursday, 11 July 2013 09:26

The grayness between black and white

I Wear the Black Hat' explores good and evil

What makes a villain?

That's the question being tackled by Chuck Klosterman in his new book 'I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined)' (Scribner, $25). The noted cultural critic best known for collections such as 'Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs' has turned his sardonic eye toward a new subject the nature of villainy.

Have you ever wanted to read a breakdown of the major players in the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal (with a healthy dose of 'Basic Instinct' thrown in for good measure? You can find that here. How about a discussion of the similarity of attitude and impact between rap group N.W.A and the NFL's Oakland Raiders? That's here too. Or maybe you're looking for a deeper exploration of the O.J. Simpson case including a look at the absurdity of the mere existence of Simpson's 'If I Did It' memoir. If so, Klosterman has got something for you.

Published in Buzz
Thursday, 11 July 2013 08:25

Donning the black hat

Discussing the nature of villainy with Chuck Klosterman

Over the past decade, Chuck Klosterman has become one of the preeminent voices in the world of pop culture analysis. He has combined an encyclopedic breadth of knowledge with insightful wit to create his own unique voice - a voice he has used to dive beneath the shallow surface of our cultural waters and explore the seemingly-mundane with passion and precision.

He has written a number of popular essay collections that have explored diverse topics spanning the cultural landscape - the realms of television, movies, music and sports. Whether it's an exploration of the true nature of Zack Morris's Bayside, a breakdown of the deeper meaning behind the 1980s rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics or an in-depth interview with Britney Spears, Klosterman has repeatedly found ways to take the pulse of the zeitgeist and report on it with a style and panache that is his and his alone.

Published in Cover Story
Wednesday, 26 June 2013 10:42

A punter's passionate prose

Reviewing 'Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies'

'Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies' starts off in perhaps the only way it could: a reprint of Kluwe's Deadspin evisceration of Emmet Burns. In fact, the title of the collection springs from that letter after a fashion.

See, while the majority of Kluwe's critics used 'He's only a punter' as the foundation for their dismissal of him, others viewed his liberal use of profanity and other perceived vulgarities as a way to negate the validity of his views.

Published in Buzz

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