Known and Strange Things: Essays


A blazingly intelligent first book of essays from the award-winning author of "Open City" and "Every Day Is for the Thief" 

With this collection of more than fifty pieces on politics, photography, travel, history, and literature, Teju Cole solidifies his place as one of today s most powerful and original voices. On page after page, deploying prose dense with beauty and ideas, he finds fresh and potent ways to interpret art, people, and historical moments, taking in subjects from Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare, and W. G. Sebald to Instagram, Barack Obama, and Boko Haram. Cole brings us new considerations of James Baldwin in the age of Black Lives Matter; the African American photographer Roy DeCarava, who, forced to shoot with film calibrated exclusively for white skin tones, found his way to a startling and true depiction of black subjects; and (in an essay that inspired both praise and pushback when it first appeared) the White Savior Industrial Complex, the system by which African nations are sentimentally aided by an America developed on pillage. 

Persuasive and provocative, erudite yet accessible, "Known and Strange Things" is an opportunity to live within Teju Cole s wide-ranging enthusiasms, curiosities, and passions, and a chance to see the world in surprising and affecting new frames. 

Advance praise for "Known and Strange Things" 

Again and again in this gathering of more than forty pieces, Cole demonstrates an appealing blend of erudition and affability a quality that makes him unique as an essayist... An understated and lyrical stylist, Cole combines the rigor of a critic with the curiosity of Everyman. We are creatures of private conventions, he writes. But we are also looking for ways to enlarge our coasts. This collection provides a way. "BookPage" 

A bold, honest, and controversially necessary read. "Kirkus Reviews "(starred review) 

Cole is a literary performance artist, his words meticulously chosen and deployed with elegance and force. To read, see, and travel with him is to be changed by the questions that challenge him. "Publishers Weekly" 

Picture a kaleidoscope: each shining component is a small jewel for sure, but taken together, they form a stunning picture that can be viewed from myriad dazzling angles. The same can be said for the social and critical commentary by award-winning novelist Cole. . . . Cole s insights cast fresh light on even the most quotidian of objects . . . [and his] collection performs an important service by elevating public discourse in an unsettled time. "Booklist "(starred review) 

Cole s writing is masterful and lyrical and politically and socially engaged, and he is probably one of the most interesting African writers at work today. Chris Abani, author of "Graceland "and "The Face" 

The forms of resistance depend on the culture they resist, and in our era of generalizations and approximations and sloppiness, Teju Cole s precise and vivid observation and description are an antidote and a joy. This is a book written with a scalpel, a microscope, and walking shoes, full of telling details and sometimes big surprises. Rebecca Solnit, author of "Men Explain Things to Me 

" Absolutely wonderful... Teju Cole is so erudite, so laser sharp, that his intelligence shimmers, but best of all, his personality shines through as being kind and generous. I found myself transported and moved deeply. Petina Gappah, author of "The Book of Memory""

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Teju Cole
Random House Trade
Publication Date:
August 09, 2016