On the American Real and Surreal
Sarabande Books, 9781941411049, 152pp.
Publication Date: August 11, 2015
In the manner of Calvino's Invisible Cities, Wendy S. Walters's essays deftly explore the psyches of cities such as Chicago, Detroit, New York, Portsmouth, and Washington, D.C. In "Cleveland," she interviews an African-American playwright who draws great reviews, but can't muster an audience. An on-air telephone chat between a DJ and his listeners drives a discussion of race and nutrition in "Chicago Radio." In "Manhattanville" the author, out for a walk with her biracial son, is mistaken for his nanny. Each essay explores societal questions--how eras of immense growth can leave us unable to prosper from that growth, how places intended for safety become fraught with danger, and how race and gender bias threaten our communities. Walters's haunting utterances are beautifully precise estimations of a place and its people.