The World Is On Fire
The sermons of Joni Tevis’s youth filled her with dread, a sense “that an even worse story—one you hadn’t read yet—could likewise come true.” In this revelatory collection, she reckons with her childhood fears by exploring the uniquely American fascination with apocalypse. From a haunted widow’s wildly expanding mansion to atomic test sites in the Nevada desert, her settings are often places of destruction and loss. And yet Tevis transforms these eerie destinations into sites of creation as well, uncovering powerful points of connection. Whether she’s relating her experience of motherhood or describing the timbre of Freddy Mercury’s voice in “Somebody to Love,” she relies on the same reverence for detail, the same sense of awe. And by anchoring her attention to the raw materials of our world––nails and beams, dirt and stone, bones and blood––she discovers grandeur in the seemingly mundane.
Possessed throughout with eclectic intelligence and extraordinary lyricism, these essays illuminate curiosities and momentous events with the same singular light.
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Praise and Prizes
“Whereas much contemporary writing gains its cachet from being dismissive and subtractive, Joni Tevis’s essays feel more like music, magnificently wholehearted. Her fascination with the world is as unselective and infectious as fire, celebrating Liberace and John of Patmos, Boo Boo Burgers and rippled rock frog lichen. This is a whale of a book, bringing us the most wonderful things from the ends of the earth.”
“Evocative essays on faith, life and wonder. In these lyrical, finely crafted pieces, like poets Gerard Manley Hopkins and Mary Oliver, Joni Tevis sees the natural world imbued with spiritual power. ‘A strange glow marks this seam between life and death,’ she says. That seam glows fiercely, startlingly bright, in these rich, revelatory essays.”
“Because Joni Tevis knows that literature’s one great subject is transformation, it’s no shock that want burns through every essay in this collection: desire to be something—or someone else—desire to be changed, to be delivered from or into love or self or madness. Compound that with her sharp observations of the leftover and ongoing apocalypses of American culture, and you get an idiosyncratic and impressive book.”
“Joni Tevis zealously interrogates emblems of apocalypse: deserts, atomic bombs, and the book of Revelation. This astute essayist notices everything. With these atmospheric, offbeat essays, Tevis rivals Barbara Kingsolver, Rebecca Solnit, John Jeremiah Sullivan, and Terry Tempest Williams.”
“Joni Tevis’s writing is utterly beautiful and authentically her own, driven by a deep-seated need to share the images that haunt her. . . . The literary equivalent of long exhalations after holding one’s breath, a passionate outpouring of description and revelation.”