"On a rainy night in October 2016, Mark Greif told a room full of people in Brookline, MA that the best book he had read in the last decade was to be published in January. This is that book.
Mr. Daniels has not simply murdered all his darlings; he has tortured them in his basement and let them bleed out while taking notes on the patterns formed by the blood. He is self-effacing and honest because it is both right and difficult to be so. He is forthright about his excrescences because really, let us cut the shit.
If your eyes have grown accustomed to the wool that shrouds your vision of this life and your place in it, I could not recommend a better book to help you regain your sight."
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.