Notes from No Man’s Land

“Essays about America and race: I know what you’re thinking. You have absolutely no idea—how iconoclastic this book is, how unpredictable, how provocative, how complicit, how (potentially) transfiguring. An utterly beautiful and deeply serious performance.”

~ David Shields

“‘Gangs are real, but they are also conceptual,’ Eula Biss says, and the wide embrace of that observation speaks well for her essays, which are always ideologically alive even as they are grounded in fascinating details: children’s dolls, the history of telephone poles, the saga of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. But this book is no miscellany. All of Biss’s explorations finally address race in the United States, from someone whose life seems devoted to that great pondering...and so this is an essential (and quintessential) American book.”

~ Albert Goldbarth

“I fought with this book. I shouted, ‘Amen!’ I cursed at it for being so wildly wrong and right. It’s so smart, combative, surprising, and sometimes shocking that it kept me twisting and turning in my seat like I was on some kind of socio-political roller coaster ride. Eula Biss writes with equal parts beauty and terror. I love it.”

~ Sherman Alexie

“Although I can’t remember when I last found a new book of essays so canny, so casually smart, as Eula Biss remarks in ‘Letter to Mexico’ of her stay with a Mexican family in Ensenada, ‘I did not know, really, anything.’ Biss’s occasions, whether race, identity, geography, space, heredity, or fate, are intractable, even impossible, yet her intricate command and the elegance of her mind in motion originates in doubt, distrust, and self-skepticism…. Biss writes essays the way Plutarch and Montaigne did—or if this sounds too classic for her passionate cool, also think James Baldwin, Anne Carson, Jenny Boully, and Luc Sante.”

~ Robert Polito

“Like Blake, that other mystic poet, [Biss] sees the world in a grain of sand. Without missing a beat, she looks at a telephone pole as a symbol of our universal connection, the intrusion of technology, an instrument of lynch mobs, a reminder of her grandfather’s death, and a symbol of life sprouting new leaves even after it is strung with wires.”

~ Noel Ignatiev