State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

“There is poetry in the Rand McNally Atlas and wonder in the back rooms and basements of a thousand local archives and historical societies…”, writes Matt Weiland, co-editor of this anthology. So, too, lyrical prose of varying rhythm and timbre is composed in 50 entries from 50 writers here — each penning an entry about a different state in the Union. But unlike historical archives, these are not encyclopedic entries about, say, North Dakota (although there is a little bit of encyclopedic trivia provided at the beginning of each chapter). For example, who better to write about North Dakota than Louise Erdrich? The paucity of humans in this state, she writes, is “incredibly refreshing”. Erdrich’s name alone evokes a feeling about place, particularly this place, that one instantly understands from her literary point of view. Vermont’s entry is entirely penned in a cartoon strip by (quick — guess) Alison Bechdel. And she captures it perfectly. Weiland and Wilsey have done a masterful job of casting writer to State; each writer’s style evokes perfectly the state-of-mind, if you will, of the State they are assigned.