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Poe Ballantine’s second collection of personal essays follows, and expands on, his acclaimed Things I Like About America. Ballantine’s world is a crazy quilt of odd jobs, eccentric characters, boarding houses, buses, and beer, rendered in the author’s by turns absurd and poignant voice. ?The Irving” briskly details the author’s diabolic plan to punch John Irving in the nose after opening for him before an audience of 2,000 people at the prestigious Wordstock Festival. ?Wide-Eyed in the Gaudy Shop” takes readers on a wild ride through Mexico as Ballantine meets and marries his wife Christina. ?Blessed Meadows for Minor Poets” offers a devastating take on the author’s life as his years of struggle to secure a major contract for a short story collection end in catastrophe. The writer the Seattle Times called ?part Huck Finn, part Hunter S. Thompson” brings a blistering wit and shrewd observation to this composite portrait of an unconventional life.

Editorial Reviews

Ballantine's second essay collection (after Things I Like About America ) follows the writer through a series of stubbornly haphazard misadventures to a place of relative stability. Ballantine is never far from the trenches, whether he's the homeless guy accepting help or the employed guy trying to provide a little assistance. His transient persona may grate on some readers' nerves, but the restless wandering of the collection's earlier part is preferable to the late-blooming semimaturity found in the later essays. Aimlessly, Ballantine manages to find himself married and settled down in one place, under contract to a reputable publisher, and enjoying the modest fruits of success (while planning to sock John Irving at a literary festival). The essays are readable and entertaining and contain occasional moments of startling beauty and insight. Still, the themes of addiction (to substances, people, new starts, the prospect of fame), dissatisfaction, and nihilism may limit the work's appeal; as with writers such as Chuck Palahniuk, some will become rabid devotees, while others will be turned off. This could be a good fit in academic libraries and larger public systems. [The title story appeared in Houghton Mifflin's Best American Essays 2006 .—Ed.]—Audrey Snowden, Cleveland P.L.

[Page 135]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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