Sunday, October 12, 2008

State by State

I heard about this book, State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, last week on the radio and have been meaning to get it from our library: each of the fifty states is visited and described by a different writer, including Dave Eggers, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anthony Bourdain, Susan Orlean, John Hodgeman and David Rakoff.

If I were to buy this book, I may have to get it from Powell's, rather than Amazon, because they started an interesting program---f you buy from Powell's you can get a 38-minute DVD featuring 19 of the book's 50 authors. Last year, Powell's started Out of the Book films, which were meant to promote both their store and their books--clips would be shown on YouTube, and while full screenings of the short films would be shown at local bookstores.

Other than the sheer joy of reading an anthology of some of the best writers in America talk about either their own home state or a state about which they can write with detached objectivity, there are two reasons I want to read this book. One is that one of the co-editors is Sean Wilsey, who I've adored ever since I read his tell-all book Oh The Glory of It All about his eccentric mother, millionaire father, and evil stepmother. It was his first and last book as a writer, though Wilsey has gone on to become an editor, most notably of McSweeney's.

The second reason is to find out what someone will write about my favorite state, Hawaii. I've not heard of the author who was chosen before, but her name is Tara Bray Smith and she was born and raised in Hawaii. Having found an article about how she was raised by a heroin addict mother for seven years before being taken in by her dad and sent to Dartmouth, I doubt that this is a chapter full of palm trees and hula girls.

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