Generally I don't care for non-fiction. Using my brain to hold factual information is a lot like using a fishnet stocking as a water balloon. But this book has such narrative swagger that it's hard to believe it's a chronicle of real events in a man's life. And this man will be your brain's new resident badass, and this will be the only misanthropic self-help book you ever read. It's not corny, woo-woo nonsense. It promises no health or happiness. It proffers no multi-step formula for any variety of actualization. It's just a gut-punch of sometimes darkly humorous, sometimes shockingly insightful life experience that will unzip your body and hold your withered soul up in front of your face for your own appraisal, which is the best and truest thing a book can do.— Joel
The first collection from a Whiting Writers' Award winner whose work has become a fixture of The Paris Review and n+1
Can civilization save us from ourselves? That is the question J. D. Daniels asks in his first book, a series of six letters written during dark nights of the soul. Working from his own highly varied experience--as a janitor, a night watchman, an adjunct professor, a drunk, an exterminator, a dutiful son--he considers how far books and learning and psychoanalysis can get us, and how much we're stuck in the mud.
In prose wound as tight as a copper spring, Daniels takes us from the highways of his native Kentucky to the Balearic Islands and from the Pampas of Brazil to the rarefied precincts of Cambridge, Massachusetts. His traveling companions include psychotic kindergarten teachers, Israeli sailors, and Southern Baptists on fire for Christ. In each dispatch, Daniels takes risks--not just literary (voice, tone, form) but also more immediate, such as spending two years on a Brazilian jiu-jitsu team (he gets beaten to a pulp, repeatedly) or participating in group psychoanalysis (where he goes temporarily insane).
Daniels is that rare thing, a writer completely in earnest whose wit never deserts him, even in extremis. Inventive, intimate, restless, streetwise, and erudite, The Correspondence introduces a brave and original observer of the inner life under pressure.
About the Author
J. D. Daniels is the recipient of a 2016 Whiting Writers' Award and The Paris Review's 2013 Terry Southern Prize. His "Letter from Majorca" was selected for The Best American Essays 2013. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Correspondence is his debut book.