In Almost a Foreign Country, a collection of columns, articles and aphorisms, Manfred Wolf brings his unique perspective to bear on a broad range of aspects characterizing our current reality and the way we live now. From love and the relationships between men and women to time and aging, from current political and social issues to the ever-changing face of language-Wolf tackles them all, often combining humor with a sharp, somber perception of the issues that concern us all. His point of view is always unflinching, original, and unapologetic.
Manfred Wolf is a university professor, a widely published writer and a world traveler who has spent time in several very different cultures. Almost a Foreign Country provides its readers the unique opportunity to spend some time in his company and enjoy the many pleasures of his experience, wit, and always fascinating opinions.
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There is a particular pleasure in reading a book that occasionally describes a familiar setting, a street often walked, a view both exhilarating and comforting, a shared neighborhood. Almost a Foreign Country: A Personal Geography in Columns and Aphorisms by Manfred Wolf offers that pleasure to San Franciscans along with unfailingly fair-minded consideration of a wide range of subjects in incisively witty prose. The book collects more than a hundred short essays, most having first appeared as newspaper columns, in sections, some of them subtitled "Men and Women: The Way We Love Now," "Sentiment and Sentimentality: The Way We Feel Now," and "Conventional Wisdom, No; Common Sense, Yes: Political Notes." Each of the fourteen sections ends with a few aphorisms related to its general theme. A logical plan might be to savor each essay, reading only one or two each day. For many this plan will be as effective as resolving to eat only one piece of chocolate at a time from a large box. The temptation is to gobble the whole book in a couple of days enjoying every minute. Unlike five pounds of chocolate, however, these essays are not indigestible. Moreover they can be read with pleasure more than once-perhaps at a more reasonable pace. In his prologue amplifying the book's title, Wolf writes, "The older years are made difficult by changes. We live in the same country but it looks strange; it's almost a foreign country. That combination of familiarity and unfamiliarity is stressful. "It's like living in the same house but your bedroom is now oddly, disorientingly located. In the kitchen the dishwasher is gone and so are some small utensils. Sure, other things take their place, but you never quite know what they're for or how to use them, so you don't. Some young person explains them to you, but he talks quickly and carelessly, and you can't quite hear what he is saying, and he has an unpleasant manner, and you want him to go away." Professor Wolf can articulate and examine more than one point of view both thoroughly and fairly. For readers who have come to see that there is no single "right" opinion on a subject of enough complexity to be interesting, this quality is welcome. He is also willing to explore the differing approaches to life taken by men and women. Women often speculate obsessively about what on earth men are thinking--but relatively few men are willing to tell them how things look from the other side. So it's great when a writer is willing to describe the view with style and good humor. This collection will appeal to many readers of varying interests and tastes. If they are San Franciscans, there are extra enjoyments.