Jun 30, 09
Read in June, 2009
The essays were not as uniformly good in this one as they were in the first collection I read, but it still merits four stars. Ballantine is a precise writer, and he manages to invoke empathy for himself and the other fringey people he finds around him. Moving from one small town to another, he spends a lot of time on Greyhound buses and in dirty motels. The two best essays are about his writing--in one, a story in Best American lands him a book contract and the editor from hell; in the other, he plots to punch John Irving (instead of Norman Mailer, who totally deserved a punch) at a literary conference. Some people may find Ballantine's insistence on independence a bit childish, but as a slave to the academy he mocks, I find it enviable.