Rough Likeness: Essays

Overview

Lia Purpura’s essays are full of joy in the act of intense observation; they’re also deliciously subversive and alert to the ways language gets locked and loaded by culture. These elegant, conversational excursions refuse to let a reader slide over anything, from the tiniest shards of beach glass to barren big-box wastelands. They detonate distractedness, superficiality, artificiality. In the process, Purpura inhabits many stances: metaphysician and biologist, sensualist and witness—all in service of illuminating...

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Rough Likeness: Essays

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Overview

Lia Purpura’s essays are full of joy in the act of intense observation; they’re also deliciously subversive and alert to the ways language gets locked and loaded by culture. These elegant, conversational excursions refuse to let a reader slide over anything, from the tiniest shards of beach glass to barren big-box wastelands. They detonate distractedness, superficiality, artificiality. In the process, Purpura inhabits many stances: metaphysician and biologist, sensualist and witness—all in service of illuminating that which Virginia Woolf called “moments of being”—previously unworded but palpably felt states of existence and knowing. Rough Likeness finds worlds in the minute, and crafts monuments to beauty and strangeness.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lia Purpura's Rough Likeness is all about looking: at a landscape, at language, at a sign. The truest-looking, though, comes on the inside, as Purpura goes beneath the surface, writing not just about what she sees but what it means. 'Rain coming harder,' she writes in her opening to 'Against 'Gunmetal.' 'Of interest … because rain alters people in unexpected ways. And the unexpected makes people so human. … Remember that.'
—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

"Purpura (On Looking, 2006) ambushes us again in her second distinctive, piquant, and vibrantly original essay collection. Her opening piece, a wise, wry, and provocative tribute to a much-maligned creature, the buzzard, covertly contains an enlivening statement of artistic intent that illuminates all that follows. With a poet’s sensibility and a storyteller’s stride, Purpura creates essays that heat up like beakers over Bunsen burners as she boils down the concatenation of experience into whorled and gleaming words. She is partial to 'the partial'—'Scraps and spots, moments and lusters passing and glimpsed sidelong.' She looks back to her Long Island childhood, paying homage to the gleaming, rocking sea; remembering how each new word felt radiant, commodious, and enchanting; and describing her grandmother’s house and passing trains in a rhapsodic inventory of objects and auras. Her arresting impressions are fleshed out with avid research, as Purpura scrutinizes whatever snares her imagination, from the word gunmetal to the bodily substance we call shit. Fragmentation and abundance, sadness and splendor, Purpura discerns their meaning and celebrates their complex beauty."
—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"In each of the book's 18 brief pieces, she strives to capture subjects that seem to defy close study: an adjective, a buzzard, bits of beach glass, a warning sign. Yet she finds something insightful to say about each of them, in large part because she's so careful with words, moving them as close as possible to those elusive truths."
—Mark Athitakis, Star Tribune

“Lia Purpura is at the forefront of the New Essay, and this latest book (her best) takes us much closer into the rough terrain of her quirky mind than she has ever gone before. The surprises and insights keep coming. Rough Likeness is an astonishment—a book to savor, read slowly, smile at, sigh at, and cherish.”
—Phillip Lopate

"Lia Purpura is fierce. She creates a kind of word origami, folding phonemes and inquiries into intricate paper delights. Then she holds a magnifying glass over them, focusing her rapturous attentions through the lens, until twists of smoke appear, and geometries of flame and sparks rain. If language is, as she suggests in one essay, 'a game we all [agree] to play,' then Purpura is at once a master of the game and a soulful, wild playmate."
—Leah Hager Cohen

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781936747030
  • Publisher: Sarabande Books
  • Publication date: 12/20/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 807,845
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Lia Purpura is the author of seven collections of poetry, essays, and translations. Her book of essays, On Looking (Sarabande Books), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In addition, she has earned fellowships and prizes from Pushcart Press, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Program, the Maryland State Arts Council, Loyola University, the MacDowell Colony, the Associated Writing Program (in nonfiction), and Alice James Press (the Beatrice Hawley Award). Her essays and poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, AGNI, and The Georgia Review, among others, and were cited five times in Best American Essays. Lia Purpura is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop and is Writer-in-Residence at Loyola University in Baltimore, MD. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, conductor Jed Gaylin, and their son.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 24, 2012

    Amazing and riveting! Highly recommend you check it out.

    Purpura's essays manage all matters with exquisite prose (poetry). The writing gifts in this spare book offer candor, humor and exceptionally-focused thoughtfulness.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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