Mr. Apology and Other Essays
By Alec Wilkinson
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780618123117, 336pp.)
Publication Date: October 2003
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Mr. Apology and Other Essays is a miscellany of misfits, cranks, daredevils, nuts, eccentrics, and lone wolves. From a piece on a Romanian cab driver who intends to cross the Bering Strait in his taxi to a celebration of two renowned hockey fighters, from Ry Cooder's collaboration with Cuban musicians in 1996 (which resulted in the celebrated Buena Vista Social Club) to a behind-the-scenes look at a Rolling Stones dinner party in 1983, Wilkinson brings to these pieces an intelligence and compassion that taps our deepest sense of humanity. The breadth of these essays is rare; with the same sensitivity and insight, Wilkinson explores Paul Simon's writer's block as well as the puzzling epidemic of blindness that afflicted 150 Cambodian women, refugees from the Khmer Rouge. In the title piece, Wilkinson describes the experience of a New York City artist who invites people to call and leave an apology -- any kind of apology, for anything -- on his answering machine. When one caller seems to divulge a deadly secret, the line becomes a complicated vehicle for both confession and delusion.
Alec Wilkinson's place in American writing, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, is among "the first rank of literary journalists . . . One is reminded of Naipaul, Mailer, and Agee." Entertaining, revelatory, and exemplary in their craftsmanship, these are essays to ponder, to learn from, to be appalled and inspired by. Mr. Apology displays the art of the essay at its finest.
Alec Wilkinson is the author of A Violent Act, Moonshine Midnights, and Big Sugar. A recipient of a Lyndhurst Prize, a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship, he is a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Esquire, and other magazines. He lives in New York City.
"A deft and memorable collection with both focus and elbow room from a class act in the world of magazine journalism." Kirkus Reviews, Starred
"[Mr. Apology] crystallizes three aspects of Wilkinson's talent. . .vivid descriptions of the settings in which he conducts his interviews, keen psychological insight and an intuitive sense of when to step back and let his subjects speak for themselves." Publishers Weekly