State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

by Matt Weiland, Sean Wilsey


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State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
captwilson More than 1 year ago
This is one of the worst books I have ever read. It is primarily a PC rant about how horrible the white Europeans were to the poor peaceful American Indians. The stories of the writers lives are boring and not worth knowing about.
navysquid More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed how each writer took their own interpretation of how to describe and represent their state. It makes for great reading as a quick pick up, but I would probably get a headache reading it all at once.

Being from California, I was disappointed in the less than quality piece done by William T. Vollmann. It focused on a microcosm of the state, and mainly San Francisco, which is (for better or worse) its own universe.

I plan on taking this book with me on my next cross country trip to try and better appreciate the landscape.
oldeagle More than 1 year ago
I have only read as far as Georgia. Some of the chapters are interesting, but they focus on just a minute part of the state and what goes on in that area. I thought it would be more about the history and geography of each entire state. I will finish it, eventually.
figre on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From 1935 to 1943, the WPA, through the Federal Writers Project, produced a book for each of the (then) 48 states. Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey used this idea as the basis for this book, an essay for each of the (now) 50 states, as well as Washington D. C. No doubt, reading the original books would be fascinating (for a number of reasons), but this collection is no piker. In fact, it is a very good collection by a wide range of writers.Here¿s the thing. I¿m assuming that the original project focused on the states. This collection really focuses on the writers. In fact, the best essays are the ones that reveal the author, rather than the ones that try to reveal the states. The writers are interesting people who have interesting stories to tell.I¿ll use Arizona (my home state) as an example. The author spends a lot of time describing the Tucson desert, and her neighbors, and her move to the area, and it fails to resonate. (Aside: I wonder if this happens to everyone? Is everyone hyper-critical about the essay on their own state? I think I would have felt better if they had picked someone with more history in the state. Anyway¿) She is writing as a newcomer who has nothing to add to our understanding of the state. For the successful essays, the author may have deeper roots in the state, or a different story for why they are in the state, or, at the very least, a revelation about themselves as it relates to the state. Again ¿ about the author works; about the state, not so much.But that is a quibble. This is an interesting and varied collection. Sure there are a couple of low spots. How can 52 essays (the second introduction is really another essay) not have some valleys. But the valleys aren¿t deep, and the hills are quite lofty. Throw in a nice collection of photos (chosen by each author to represent the state they wrote about) and a fascinating collection of statistics in the final appendix (everything from population by state to alcohol consumption and roller coasters per capita by state) and it is a really good book.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Our marvelous country is so varied--and perusing the various essays of this book will definitely reinforce that fact. Each is wonderfully different, some even are done in graphic novel form, as talented authors with connections to each state (i.e. Augusten Burroughs for New York) share their impressions of it. I enjoyed many of these glimpses into the diverse ways of life and geography of our United States. This would be a great read for someone new to the U.S. or who enjoys travel.
MarthaHuntley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great book to keep around and read and savor chapter by chapter. A lot of thoughtful, insightful, entertaining and frequently funny stories that really make you feel the state you are in. Comes with a DVD by the various writers. Excellent project, especially in a election year...a little like having your own little piece of NPR on the nightstand.
swampette on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
More than once while reading State by State, I'd turn to Brian and say, "Let's move to _______." Brian's response was almost always, "Ok. [pause] You know how cold it gets there, right?" While it is unlikely that I will have the opportunity to live in every state, that is the response I had hoped this book would evoke in me. For the most part, it did not let me down.Curious, I went back to investigate: it was the New York Times review that initially inspired me to read State by State. Have you ever re-read a review after reading the book? The inaccuracies and quotes out of context can be quite startling. It is also not the first time that I've been struck with the thought that it is the reviewer's writing that often causes me to pick up a particular book rather than the author's. I did not, as the reviewer presumed, skim through the book, picking and choosing states' essays because of my history with them. I actually read cover to cover, visiting each state alphabetically. I strongly recommend this approach, because having lived in a state does not guarantee you'll enjoy that state's essay. Indeed there were three states (well, two plus D.C.) that I had to abandon because they were simply too leaden.As I read, I tried to find a theme that separated a mediocre piece from an outstanding one. Should the author be a native of his or her state? Not necessarily. Lydia Millet, Mohammed Naseehu Ali and Cristina Henriquez had beautiful pieces about Arizona, Michigan, and Texas, respectively, despite being from elsewhere. The Delaware section was written by a Canadian - the nerve! - but it was still quite insightful. Must the writer love the state? Not at all. Rick Moody's always outstanding writing was thoroughly enjoyable all while convincing me that Connecticut's Merritt Parkway might actually be the road to hell, with layovers in Alcoholism, Divorce, and Depression. It helped - tremendously - for the topic to be personal rather than didactic (only Idaho's Anthony Doerr managed to do both), but a couple of the clunkers were quite personal. It turns out that the only common thread I could identify was ephemeral: the essayist had to "capture" his or her state. He or she had to transport you, make you feel you could see, hear, smell the things being described. That is probably true of most good writing, though I was surprised by the names that failed to accomplish this.Brian asked me what my favorite section was. Paul Greenberg's Alaska stands out, but I would be lying if I didn't admit I favored Florida. I was deeply offended to discover that the Florida chapter's author was born and raised not in Florida, but in Danville, IL, until age 11 (at which point he did, in fact, move to the Keys). From there he proceeded to attend the University of Iowa (?) and receive an MFA (MFA!) in writing from UC-Irvine. This gentleman was going to tell the story of my Florida? I think not. But all was forgotten when he revealed that he won a writing contest sponsored by Jimmy Buffett, and as such won a tour of the local Keys with Buffett himself. His essay made me laugh, tear up, and nod knowingly, thoroughly recognizing my crazy state and all that I love about it. That, in the end, is what what I was really looking for.
markfinl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried to read this book four or five months ago, but I noticed that the cover of the book has a banner that says: Take Pride In Your County. Well, taking pride in America has been impossible for the last eight years, so I realized I had to wait until after the election to see if reading the book would be possible. I am glad that I read it after all. Each entry is written by a different writer with a connection, sometimes tenuous, to the state in question. The writers have been given great latitude in what they can write. Because of this, some entries are much better than others. Some amount to nothing more than a writer describing what it was like to grow up in a certain part of a state, while others have a broader historical sweep. Personal memoirs are not necessarily bad, however, and neither does historical mean good. The weakest entry is Kentucky's, which tells tells the story of an obscure historical figure. On the other hand, Joshua Ferris's entry on Florida-nothing more than the story of his growing up in the Florida Keys in the 70s and 80s, is one the best. Now that we can all take pride in our country again, reading this book is a great way to be reminded of why America is a great country.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this collection of essays as a companion to the 50 states reading challenge. After I completed a book for a state, I read the essay about that state. Although it took more than two years to read the book that way, I think the pace was suited to the nature of the book. It's the sort of book you periodically dip into, rather than one you read in the span of a few days.The book was inspired by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration. The editors commissioned essays on each state, instructing the writers to ¿Tell us a story about your state, the more personal the better, something that catches the essence of the place...The kind of story the enlisted soldier tells his boot-camp bunkmate about back home.¿ The authors followed these instructions. The only similarity among the essays is their length. The content highlights the diversity that still exists in the U.S.A few of the essays were so negative that they quenched any desire I might have had to visit that state. Other essays made me want to hop in the car and head for that state to experience what the author had experienced there. My favorite essays include ¿Georgia¿ by Ha Jin, ¿Missouri¿ by Jacki Lyden, ¿New York¿ by Jonathan Franzen, and ¿Ohio¿ by Susan Orlean. There's enough variety in the collection that there is surely something that will appeal to every reader. It would be a great gift, especially for those hard to buy for people on your gift list.
RBHolb More than 1 year ago
Very disappointing overall. The selection of writers for some states left me scratching my head: there must be someone who has spent more than two weeks in South Dakota who can write; Anthony Bourdain is just tiresome. A number of the essays were collections of cliches (I would LOVE to see something written about Minnesota that does not mention Garrison Keillor).
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