Cover image for Impossible owls : essays / Brian Phillips.
Title:
Impossible owls : essays / Brian Phillips.
ISBN:
9780374175337
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.
Physical Description:
334 pages ; 20 cm.
Contents:
Out in the great alone -- Sea of crises -- Lost highway -- The little gray wolf will come -- Man-eaters -- In the dark: science fiction in small towns -- Once and future queens -- But not like your typical love story.
Abstract:
"In his highly anticipated debut essay collection, Impossible Owls, Brian Phillips demonstrates why he's one of the most iconoclastic journalists of the digital age, beloved for his ambitious, off-kilter, meticulously reported essays that read like novels. The eight essays assembled here--five from Phillips's Grantland and MTV days, and three new pieces--go beyond simply chronicling some of the modern world's most uncanny, unbelievable, and spectacular oddities (though they do that, too). Researched for months and even years on end, they explore the interconnectedness of the globalized world, the consequences of history, the power of myth, and the ways people attempt to find meaning. He searches for tigers in India, and uncovers a multigenerational mystery involving an oil tycoon and his niece turned stepdaughter turned wife in the Oklahoma town where he grew up. Through each adventure, Phillips's remarkable voice becomes a character itself--full of verve, rich with offhanded humor, and revealing unexpected vulnerability." -- (Source of summary not specified)
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Summary

Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. SEMI-FINALIST FOR THE PEN/DIAMONSTEIN-SPIELVOGEL AWARD FOR ART OF THE ESSAY.

One of Amazon, Buzzfeed, ELLE , Electric Literature and Pop Sugar 's Best Books of 2018. Named one of the Best Books of October and Fall by Amazon, Buzzfeed, TIME, Vulture, The Millions and Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

"Hilarious, nimble, and thoroughly illuminating." -- Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railroad

A globe-spanning, ambitious book of essays from one of the most enthralling storytellers in narrative nonfiction

In his highly anticipated debut essay collection, Impossible Owls , Brian Phillips demonstrates why he's one of the most iconoclastic journalists of the digital age, beloved for his ambitious, off-kilter, meticulously reported essays that read like novels.

The eight essays assembled here--five from Phillips's Grantland and MTV days, and three new pieces--go beyond simply chronicling some of the modern world's most uncanny, unbelievable, and spectacular oddities (though they do that, too). Researched for months and even years on end, they explore the interconnectedness of the globalized world, the consequences of history, the power of myth, and the ways people attempt to find meaning. He searches for tigers in India, and uncovers a multigenerational mystery involving an oil tycoon and his niece turned stepdaughter turned wife in the Oklahoma town where he grew up. Through each adventure, Phillips's remarkable voice becomes a character itself--full of verve, rich with offhanded humor, and revealing unexpected vulnerability.

Dogged, self-aware, and radiating a contagious enthusiasm for his subjects, Phillips is an exhilarating guide to the confusion and wonder of the world today. If John Jeremiah Sullivan's Pulphead was the last great collection of New Journalism from the print era, Impossible Owls is the first of the digital age.


Author Notes

Brian Phillips is a former staff writer for Grantland and a former senior writer for MTV News. He has written for The New York Times Magazine , The New Yorker , and Slate , among other publications, and his work has appeared in Best American Sports Writing and Best American Magazine Writing . He lives in central Pennsylvania. Impossible Owls is his first book.


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Former Grantland staff writer Phillips brings together entertaining, eclectic, and often insightful essays for a collection with room for considerations of both the datedness of sci-fi television and the ethical ambiguity of ecotourism. He often approaches topics from a pleasingly oblique angle, as when describing Queen Elizabeth II in "Once and Future Queen" through the people who serve and surround her, and the items she's known to carry in her handbag, including a "five-pound note, crisply folded, for the church collection plate. Sometimes ten pounds; never more." He also likes to play a central role in his own essays, an effective strategy for personal pieces, such as one about his hometown of Ponca City, Okla., "But Not Like Your Typical Love Story," but distracting in farther-flung pieces, such as one on the Iditarod, "Out in the Great Alone." Despite this misstep, Phillips's narrative voice is consistently appealing, and often laugh-out-loud funny ("The backyard was a jungle. I don't mean `We'll spend a weekend weeding and then plant some hydrangeas.' I mean there were creatures out there that had lairs"). At their best, Phillips's essays leave readers with newfound appreciation for subjects they may not have considered before, including sumo wrestling and Russia's greatest living animator. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

These eight essays are largely unrelated but cover a variety of interesting topics. Phillips details a trip to fly bush planes to cover the Iditarod, a Sumo wrestling tournament with a side trip to track down an aging Japanese revolutionary, the rise and fall of the founder of ConocoPhillips and his wife, who was also his adopted daughter, and more. The writing is clever and humorous, but there are moments when Phillips wants to make sure that the reader knows just how clever he is and slips into pretension. His perspective is heavily incorporated into his works, bringing a more personal feeling, but also leads to digressions that may or may not support his point. Despite the flaws, these essays are transporting and engrossing. Steve ­Menasche is a perfectly serviceable and pleasant reader, but he does fall down in a few respects. His voice suggests a significantly older person than the writer and that dissonance is accentuated because of the way the essays express the author's personality. The mispronunciation of certain foreign words may also break the flow for some listeners. ­Verdict Recommended for fans of NPR's Driveway Moments, short-form history, and highbrow periodicals. ["Phillips's essays are not only fascinating and thoroughly researched but written in a distinctive voice that conveys humor, awareness, and vulnerability": LJ 7/18 review of the Farrar hc.]-Tristan Boyd, Austin, TX © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.