Eula Biss’s “Notes From No Man’s Land” is the most accomplished book of essays anyone has written or published so far in the 21st century. If it has not taken up residence in the popular imagination of readers in the same way Joan Didion’s “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” did in the late 1960s, perhaps it is because we live in a time in which it is more difficult for books to assert themselves with great cultural force in the way they once did, or perhaps because Biss, unlike Didion, has yet to receive the strong support of the systems of power that bring great books to the attention of a broad readership.
But there is still time, and the publication of the audiobook edition of “Notes from No Man’s Land” is one opportunity to wave the flag again, and to say to readers: Pay attention. We live among a literary landscape that is so cluttered with passing next big things that it is possible to miss the truly important things which appear at first glance to be small, but which prove themselves over time to make a lasting home in the memory and moral conscience of their readers.
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