Readers familiar with Lia Purpura’s highly praised essay collections—Increase, On Looking, and Rough Likeness—will know she’s a master of observation, a writer obsessed with the interplay between humans and the things they see.
The subject matter of All the Fierce Tethers is wonderfully varied, both low (muskrats, slugs, a stained quilt in a motel room) and lofty (shadows, prayer, the idea of beauty).
In “Treatise Against Irony,” she counters this all-too modern affliction with ferocious optimism and intelligence: “The opposite of irony is nakedness.” In “My Eagles,” our nation’s symbol is viewed from all angles—nesting, flying, politicized, preserved. The essay in itself could be a small anthology. And, in a fresh move, Purpura turns to her own, racially divided Baltimore neighborhood, where a blood stain appears on a street separating East (with its Value Village) and West (with its community garden). Finalist for the National Book Critics Award, winner of the Pushcart Prize, Lia Purpura returns with a collection both sustaining and challenging.