The Uses of Adversity titled after the line from As You Like It, “Sweet are the uses of adversity” - is a collection of one hundred sonnets cobining the craftiness of traditional form with the effortlessness of free verse. The language is often richly textured and musical, often plain spoken and conversational, but always witty and accessible. The subject matter ranges widely from Rootie Kazootie and Froggy the Gremlin, Howdy Doody and Elvis Presley, to Christopher Columbus, Khrushchev, Kennedy, and Kevorkian; from Donald Duck, Mandrake the Magician, Li’l Abner and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, to Shakespeare, H.P. Lovecraft, Transtromer, Rilke, Wittgenstein, and Nietzsche; from the tradtional themes of lyrics - love (both sacred and profane), death, the changing of the seasons, marriage, birth, divorce, childhood, sex, religion,art, the natural world, illness - to the most unexpected and quirky contemporary narratives.
The title sequence, which explores a father’s illness and death, is both elegiac and celebratory, evoking the conflictual bonds in any father-son relationship. In these sonnets, by turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Wallace once again proves himself to be one of our most versatile and affirmative poets.