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Between Panic and Desire

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  232 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews

“Insouciant” and “irreverent” are the sort of words that come up in reviews of Dinty W. Moore’s books—and, invariably, “hilarious.” Between Panic and Desire , named after two towns in Pennsylvania, finds Moore at the top of his astutely funny form. A book that could be named after one of its chapters, “A Post-Nixon, Post-panic, Post-modern, Post-mortem,” this collection is
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Published March 1st 2008 by University of Nebraska Press
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Mar 11, 2008 Dinty rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Well, dang, I wrote the thing ...
May 10, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone.
Dinty W. Moore has written a completely unexpected memoir. This series of linked essays (with a quiz thrown in here and there for good measure) follows the path of a single life through the cultural touchstones that that shaped all of us who are old enough to remember Nixon, Squeaky Fromme, and Mr. Greenjeans.

If you're not old enough to remember them, buy this for your father and write something on the inside flap like, "Thanks for not sending me hither and yon looking for a father figure, Dad!
Sep 13, 2011 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the idea of writing a generational memoir alongside a personal one, and this book is wonderfully inventive and playful. I also appreciated Moore's willingness to detail his years as a chronic potsmoker, which also means he had took on the long stretch of his young adulthood where not too much happened. (Maybe this is why "chronic potsmoker" is not as popular a genre for memoir as "chronic alcoholic" is.)

I have more reasons why I should like this more than I did, but rather than listing t
Jen Knox
Feb 18, 2010 Jen Knox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really impressed with Moore's swift, witty style and his ability-one held by only the best essayists-to reflect his candid analysis of, well everything, without spending a single sentence disclaiming his stance or apologizing for the societal connections he draws. "Son of Mr. Green Jeans" was an awesome essay, and to this reader, it carried the whole book.
Sep 30, 2009 Hannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This cultural memoir literally had me laughing out loud (slightly awkward). Smart, unusual and deeply poignant without ever feeling cheesy. And the author was a favorite professor of mine so there's that.
Between Panic and Desire is a blunt, engaging memoir of Dinty W. Moore. His autobiography is split into three parts: Panic, Paranoia, and Desire. In part one, his narrative begins to blur into the narrative of the 60s-70s American generation, aided by the frequent pop culture and news interjections. By part two, his story is almost utterly inseparable to the evolution of America’s culture. However, this meshing works in Moore’s memoir due to his eventual connecting themes. He points the main cau ...more
Oct 15, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A funny and strange book-- the reviews are largely accurate, that this book blends memoir and social history rather deftly. That seems like the kind of thing that lots of books do, but I feel like this one does the personal side a little more fully, that Moore is, more than the observing eye in those other books, a real character here, and a funny one at that. I also liked the frequent interruptions of recognizable other narrative modes-- the quizzes, for example.

I'm teaching this book next seme
Jan 27, 2013 Nita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Between Panic and Desire, Dinty W. (an initial he explains in this book) Moore's cultural memoir of linked essays in experimental form complete with quizzes and his own autopsy report demanded that I read it in one sitting. The book weaves John F. Kennedy, Nixon, the cold war,the Cuban missile crisis, 9/11, both Bush presidents, the Beatles, Charles Manson, Squeaky Fromme, missing fathers, father figures, drug addiction, Irish heritage, automobiles, and Leonard Cohen into a witty and inventive n ...more
Jason Dutton
If memory serves, the author calls this book an unconventional memoir, and I suppose that's true; he uses a format I've come to know as a hermit crab essay, or an essay that is sort of hidden within an outer shell that pretends to be something else. For instance, one of Moore's chapters is an autopsy of himself, and another is a list of encyclopedia entries. This works so far as the chapters are entertaining, and Moore does a good job of tying themes into different chapters, but I came away from ...more
Jan 28, 2015 Courtney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, humor, own
3.5 stars. A bit uneven, and slightly repetitive, but overall engaging and fun. Moore describes Between Panic and Desire as a "cultural memoir," and this is a very apt term. While it is primarily about his personal experiences as a lonely, isolated child and directionless, apathetic adult, it also explores how these states of being represent a larger conglomeration of collective emotions. Some pieces might be stronger or more compelling for those who share Moore's generational identity. Even whe ...more
Sep 13, 2012 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah Dinty. I am so grateful for the story of your name. My only previous exposure to Dinty and Moore strung together in a moniker was related to canned chili. How narrow and sheltered my life has been. If you are a writer and have a chance to do work with Mr. Moore, sign up and show up. He led a lovely simple writing exercise at VCFA which resulted in lovely and powerful "Why I Am The Way I Am" Essays by participants. Weed was not my drug of choice, but I identify with DInty regarding fear and th ...more
There is definitely humor here amid the pathos. One goodreads reviewer noted that baby-boomers will like this best, and I think there's truth in that; I'm a bit younger than Dinty (can't possibly be his real name!) and I am rolling my eyes a bit at some of his references and obsessions, and his insistence that everyone else share them. He is funny. The way he links seemingly unrelated short bits to show you his theme is creative and enjoyable. A fun read if you have time on your hands. He is a w ...more
Apr 18, 2009 Eileen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was happily surprised by this book, which looks pretty kitschy on first glance, but turns out to be a very well done, long, chaptered essay on life under the influence of late 20th century American pop and political culture. Moore uses some highly fraught methods (i.e. fictional dialogues with charged figures such as Tricia Nixon and the Beav), which would cause most writers to flail and drop the ball; he, instead, succeeds.
May 10, 2008 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is simply an amazing book: funny, accessible, poignant, avant garde, and silly all at the same time. Dinty Moore, a teacher of creative nonfiction, bursts the boundaries of the form in this book that includes quizzes, a dramatic teleplay written from published quotes, and an emotional autopsy. It is an easy read, as it is organized in short, punchy chapters. If you were born in the 1950s or 60s, the book will be even more meaningful for you. Highly recommended.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
I was disappointed to see this book when it arrived for me at the library. Awful cover. Looked like my fifth grade niece did the artwork.

I’d read Moore’s piece, Son of Mr. Green Jeans, for a class this summer and loved it. Raved about it. Masterful. This was the first selection in the book. Oh dear. Is Moore a one-hit wonder?

No. Happily I can say no. Ignore the cover. Moore can write, at least about the sadnesses of his life. It’s a lovely book. Funny. Clever. Glad I read it.
Apr 18, 2014 sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mfa-scw-2014
Dinty Moore proves himself to be an authority of the genre of nonfiction, putting wisdom into practice with Between Panic & Desire. He is experimental at times with form, but that does not detract from the urgency with which he writes. The touch of humor and playful tone only heighten the themes he explores on the page. Moore can deftly cast his net into the sea of memory and catch just the precise moment to reel in, unfold, and dissect for the reader.
NancyKay Wessman
Jan 21, 2013 NancyKay Wessman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cannot remember, but I think I bought this book in its first-year out, in 2008, at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. That's when and where I met Dinty, at the CNF Oxford Conference. I *needed* this 'tween time to prepare myself for the reading; this is unlike any other memoir I've read. It's better. Can hardly wait to reconnect with this wonderful writer at the 2013 Oxford CNF ( . . . anyone who decides to go based on this should cite my mention! Thanks, NKSW.
Julie Farrar
Aug 10, 2010 Julie Farrar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, favorite
I loved the structure of this memoir, organizing his life along the lines of culture touchstones from "Father Knows Best" to the presidency of Richard Nixon. He plays with form, some chapters being dream sequences and some being scripts for Oprah-worthy docu-dramas. And it is often deep, belly-laugh humor.
Jan 13, 2008 Laurie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Both witty and poignant, eclectic and honest--a rollercoaster ride through form that delves into pop culture and a search for meaning and self. I can't think of another book like this, and that is part of its refreshing appeal. But it's also well-written. Easily the best book Moore has published to date.
Robert Gard
I applaud the route the author took, tying in his life's story to a larger generational journey. I think there was a deeper emotional layer that was only touched upon which would have been nice to have had be more consistent. Overall, a fine read.
Mar 12, 2008 Lesley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Not quite sure what I expected of this book. I read some reviews and people said they were laughing outloud so I guess I was hoping for some humor. Yeah, not so much. Mr. Moore does have a gift for writing in a style thats unconventional. However, I don't think his style is for me.
Great style for a memoir. The last chapter was great.
May 29, 2011 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the panicked and desirous
Recommended to Kate by: 973.92 M
Shelves: history
"History would be so much simpler if you could just write it without ever having to let it happen."

"I was there, after all; I misperceived it with my own eyes."
Jess Reyna
Oct 01, 2014 Jess Reyna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely loved this book! Dinty is a very talented author with a lot of humor and spark inside such a dark memoir.
Man, that only took me forever to finish.
Mary Louise
May 08, 2008 Mary Louise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love the way Moore uses tightly structured fragments.
Jan 11, 2009 Dennis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Autobio--both humorous and heartbreaking. I like the semi-figuratve language he uses.
Gerry LaFemina
Feb 15, 2012 Gerry LaFemina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny, sensitive, smart, and well-written. there's a mind and heart at work in this book of CNF. And it's all good.
Melissa Reddish
Dec 20, 2011 Melissa Reddish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book for intellectuals with short attention spans. I greatly enjoyed it!
Jane Cleary
Good read, entertaining. Read it for writing style and was not disappointed.
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Dinty W. Moore is the author of numerous books, and has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Gettysburg Review, Utne Reader, and Crazyhorse. He edits BREVITY, the journal of concise creative nonfiction ( and teaches at Ohio University.
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