Known and Strange Things

Known and Strange Things

by Teju Cole


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

Time • The Guardian • Harper's Bazaar • San Francisco Chronicle • The Atlantic • Financial Times • Kirkus

Finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and PEN/Jean Stein Book Award

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.

Praise for Known and Strange Things

“On every level of engagement and critique, Known and Strange Things is an essential and scintillating journey.”—Claudia Rankine, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“A heady mix of wit, nostalgia, pathos, and a genuine desire to untangle the world, or at the least, to bask in its unending riddles.”The Atlantic

“Brilliant . . . [Known and Strange Things] reveals Cole’s extraordinary talent and his capacious mind.”Time

“[Known and Strange Things] showcases the magnificent breadth of subjects [Cole] is able to plumb with . . . passion and eloquence.”Harper’s Bazaar

“[Cole is] one of the most vibrant voices in contemporary writing.”LA Times

“Cole has fulfilled the dazzling promise of his novels Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City. He ranges over his interests with voracious keenness, laser-sharp prose, an open heart and a clear eye.”The Guardian

“Remarkably probing essays . . . Cole is one of only a very few lavishing his focused attention on that most approachable (and perhaps therefore most overlooked) art form, photography.”Chicago Tribune

“There’s almost no subject Cole can’t come at from a startling angle. . . . His [is a] prickly, eclectic, roaming mind.”The Boston Globe

“[Cole] brings a subtle, layered perspective to all he encounters.”Vanity Fair

“In page after page, Cole upholds the sterling virtue of good writing combined with emotional and intellectual engagement.”The New Statesman

“[Known and Strange Things possesses] a passion for justice, a deep sympathy for the poor and the powerless around the world, and a fiery moral outrage.”Poets and Writers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812989786
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/09/2016
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 515,099
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Teju Cole was born in the United States in 1975 and raised in Nigeria. He is the author of Every Day Is for the Thief and Open City, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Internationaler Literaturpreis, the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the New York City Book Award, and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His photography has been exhibited in India and the United States. He is Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College.

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Angels in Winter

Excerpted from "Known and Strange Things"
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Copyright © 2016 Teju Cole.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

Section I Reading Things

Black Body 3

Natives on the Boat 17

Housing Mr. Biswas 25

Tomas Tranströmer 33

Poetry of the Disregarded 38

Always Returning 45

A Better Quality of Agony 53

Derek Walcott 58

Aciman's Alibis 64

Double Negative 69

In Place of Thought 74

A Conversation with Aleksandar Hemon 78

Section II Seeing Things

Unnamed Lake 95

Wangechi Mutu 104

Age, Actually 108

An African Caesar 113

Peter Sculthorpe 119

Red Shift 122

John Berger 125

Portrait of a Lady 128

Object Lesson 134

Saul Leiter 140

A True Picture of Black Skin 144

Gueorgui Pinkhassov 152

Perfect and Unrehearsed 160

Disappearing Shanghai 165

Touching Strangers 171

Finders Keepers 176

Google's Macchia 181

The Atlas of Affect 190

Memories of Things Unseen 196

Death in the Browser Tab 201

The Unquiet Sky 207

Against Neutrality 212

Section III Being There

Far Away from Here 221

Home Strange Home 236

The Reprint 239

A Reader's War 254

Madmen and Specialists 262

What It Is 267

Kofi Awoonor 269

Captivity 274

In Alabama 277

Bad Laws 281

Brazilian Earth 288

Angels in Winter 297

Shadows in São Paulo 313

Two Weeks 319

The Island 328

Reconciliation 331

Break It Down 335

The White Savior Industrial Complex 340

"Perplexed … Perplexed" 350

A Piece of the Wall 363

Section IV Epilogue

Blind Spot 379

Acknowledgments 387

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