J. D. Daniels
This event includes a book signing
January 19, 2017
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes essayist J. D. DANIELS—winner of the Whiting Writers’ Award and The Paris Review’s Terry Southern Prize—for a discussion of his debut collection, The Correspondence.
About The Correspondence
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.
"[A] stunning debut . . . Delivered with the storytelling talents of John Jeremiah Sullivan and brimming with the folkloric, true-life tales of Breece D’J Pancake, these tales are funny; unrepentantly realist; and, in their way, awfully elegant . . . With careful wit, an attention to emotional nuance that reaches down to the gut, and an astounding ear for dialogue, Daniels writes with a kind of brutal authenticity that is not easily faked, whichever side of auto-fiction’s hyphen he’s writing from." —Booklist, starred review
"An essayist who writes like a rattlesnake, his sentences coiled yet always ready to strike with venomous impact . . . [Daniels's] spare, elemental prose conjures old haunts, old hurts, and old friends who are dead or are in prison . . . extraordinary . . . An uncommonly auspicious debut." —Kirkus, starred review
"The Correspondence is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time, a whole new music that changes the score of masculinity, and a new kind of writing too, one that pushes form and sentence into radical, contemporary shapes. The word ‘honesty’ has become something of an irritant in contemporary literary culture: J. D. Daniels does something more moral than be simply honest. He invokes the grandeur and abasement of experience with a tactility of language that makes a psychological landscape of it, rather as the ancient Greeks did, and his notions of justice and truth are as richly textured as theirs. I have lent this slim, meaningful book to one person after another, and received the confirmation that it has changed their view of the world with its economy, its potency, its different fall of light." —Rachel Cusk, author of Transit
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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