The World Is On Fire, by Joni Tevis

The subtitle for this collection of essays is "Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse," which doesn't make much sense before you read this book, but certainly does after. Tevis starts with a meditation on the Winchester Mystery House, a well-known attraction in Northern California, contrasting the Winchester's "crazy," paranoid builder's public image with the very human grief that drove her to build it. We witness the atomic bomb tests of Nevada, advertised as a tourist attraction, while retracing Buddy Holly's last steps before that fateful crash. Tevis's miscarriage then subsequent infertility treatments are partnered with Freddy Mercury writing "Somebody to Love."

There are two kinds of very good writers: the first writes language that flows like crystal water and leaves you breathless; the second writes with intense deliberation and is no less beautiful, but takes work and careful reading. Tevis is the latter, and as unique and emotional as her essays are, they are not easy to read and require a certain state of mind to fully digest. I'm glad I read this book, but I fear few readers have the stamina to stick with this challenging read.


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