Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative

Overview

Shuttling between cultural comedies and political tragedies, Lawrence Weschler’s articles have throughout his long career intrigued readers with his unique insight into everything he examines, from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Uncanny Valley continues the page-turning conversation as Weschler collects the best of his narrative nonfiction from the past fifteen years. The title piece surveys the hapless efforts of digital animators to fashion a credible human face, the ...

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Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative

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Overview

Shuttling between cultural comedies and political tragedies, Lawrence Weschler’s articles have throughout his long career intrigued readers with his unique insight into everything he examines, from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Uncanny Valley continues the page-turning conversation as Weschler collects the best of his narrative nonfiction from the past fifteen years. The title piece surveys the hapless efforts of digital animators to fashion a credible human face, the endlessly elusive gold standard of the profession. Other highlights include profiles of novelist Mark Salzman, as he wrestles with a hilariously harrowing bout of writer’s block; the legendary film and sound editor Walter Murch, as he is forced to revisit his work on Apocalypse Now in the context of the more recent Iraqi war film Jarhead; and the artist Vincent Desiderio, as he labors over an epic canvas portraying no less than a dozen sleeping figures.

With his signature style and endless ability to wonder, Weschler proves yet again that the “world is strange, beautiful, and connected” (The Globe and Mail). Uncanny Valley demonstrates his matchless ability to analyze the marvels he finds in places and people and offers us a new, sublime way of seeing the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Former New Yorker staff writer Weschler (The Passion of Poland) gathers the finest fruits of the last 15 years in this delectable collection. The title piece, a metaphysical twist on digital animation, discusses reality and trickery with the arbiters of "algorithmic" expressions and deftly reinforces the importance of strong narrative in order to captivate "our ensouled and incarnate natures." Weschler's intense allusions are rarely straightforward, as in "Three Improbable Yarns," a marvelous mesh of Jewish identity, human rights, and past work in the Balkans. An avant-garde Berlin showcase of his grandfather Ernst Toch's best concerto flows into a discourse on life and death, then inspires a sublime comparative essay of Milosz's "In Rome" and Szymborska's "Reality Demands," with Weschler in his element and the reader under his spell. His regard for visual and performance art proves mesmerizing in an initially unnerving account of the Danish Billedstofteater that morphs into a serene inference to the "current crisis of vision." Though rambunctious satire sends some adventures off in new directions, Weschler provides elegant and worthwhile conclusions.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
Praise for Uncanny Valley

"Former New Yorker staff writer Weschler (The Passion of Poland) gathers the finest fruits of the last 15 years in this delectable collection. The title piece, a metaphysical twist on digital animation, discusses reality and trickery with the arbiters of "algorithmic" expressions and deftly reinforces the importance of strong narrative in order to captivate "our ensouled and incarnate natures." Weschler's intense allusions are rarely straightforward, as in "Three Improbable Yarns," a marvelous mesh of Jewish identity, human rights, and past work in the Balkans. An avant-garde Berlin showcase of his grandfather Ernst Toch's best concerto flows into a discourse on life and death, then inspires a sublime comparative essay of Milosz's "In Rome" and Szymborska's "Reality Demands," with Weschler in his element and the reader under his spell. His regard for visual and performance art proves mesmerizing in an initially unnerving account of the Danish Billedstofteater that morphs into a serene inference to the "current crisis of vision." Though rambunctious satire sends some adventures off in new directions, Weschler provides elegant and worthwhile conclusions. —Publishers Weekly (starred)

The New York Times Book Review
Weschler is a master of narrative nonfiction.
—Jascha Hoffman
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582437576
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 10/4/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Table of Contents

Uncanny Valley: On the Digital Animation of the Face 1

Four Easy Pieces

On Coming Face-to-Face with Myself 21

Torqued Brueghel 24

Motes in the Light 27

The Judd Ant 29

Three Improbable Yarns

Mr. Wilson in Belgrade 33

The Poem on the Train: A Letter to the Editor of The Threepenny Review 39

Popocatepetl (My Grandfather's Geographical and My Medical Fugue) 42

Some Probes into the Terrain of Human Rights

Sentries (with Richard Avedon) 49

Swallowed Up in Rwanda 55

Exceptional Cases in Rome: The United States and the International Criminal Court 66

Gazing Back: The Disappeared 107

A Berlin Epiphany 115

Four Walkabouts

Waking Up to How We Sleepwalk 125

Dario Fo on Broadway 133

Tomislav Gotovac: Naked in Zagreb 139

Sharon Lockhart: The No Film 142

Five Further Adventures in the Narrative

Splendors of Decaying Celluloid: On Bill Morrison's Decasia 147

Still Not Finished: On Vincent Desiderio's Sleep 163

Valkyries over Iraq: Walter Murch, Apocalypse Now, Jarhead, and the Trouble with War Movies 181

Double Vision: The Perspectival Journey of the Oakes Twins 219

Blockage and Grace: Mark Salzman Lying Awake 256

Afterword: On Grace and Narrative and the Current State of the Uncanny valley 273

Notes 279

Sources and Image Credits 297

Acknowledgments 303

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