My reading divides into 3 kinds of books: 1) the books I just don’t care for; 2) the books that are pleasing but ultimately forgettable; and 3) the books that force me to reckon with them. Of the three kinds, the third is indisputably the best. Even when the ultimate reckoning does not come out in their favor, these are books that have seduced me to live in their world, and I will not forget them easily.
It’s a wonderful attempt to reinvent the book-length essay, a contemplation of the ugly black maw within which this country sat in the 2000s, and an impressive collection of high-wire set pieces. It has guaranteed that whatever John D’Agata next publishes I will read with great anticipation.