Things That Are
From the cosmic to the quotidian, this debut collection of essays by Amy Leach asks us to reconsider our kinship with the wild world.
Things That Are takes jellyfish, fainting goats, and imperturbable caterpillars as just a few of its many inspirations. Surveying both the tiniest earth dwellers and the most far-flung celestial bodies—considering the similarity of gods to donkeys, the inexorability of love and vines, the relations of exploding stars to exploding sea cucumbers—Leach rekindles a vital communion with the wild world, dormant for far too long. These are essays that leap from the animal to the human to the phenomenal, and somehow transcend all three, yielding “words of wisdom” (New York Times) to carry with us.
Reminiscent of the work of Ander Monson, John D’Agata, and Eula Biss—yet truly a new species of its own—Things That Are is a book of wonder, one the reader cannot help but leave with their perceptions expanded and confounded in delightful ways.
Like this book? Sign up for occasional updates
Praise and Prizes
“To Amy Leach’s dismay, we too often forget the past or how the world came to be as it is today. But it is not this human tendency that most concerns her. Rather, it’s the objects of this error: the neglected. In Things That Are, Leach delves into case study-like descriptions of species and planets. . . . Her descriptions give way to words of wisdom. . . . She takes on her subjects’ perspectives and in turn humanizes and elevates them.”
“I know of no other writer on earth—or in the sky—like Amy Leach. One of the pleasures of Things That Are is the surprise of finding, among the mouldywarps and whimwhams and leguminous exoplanets of our galaxy, truths about ourselves—unearthed and unaired.”
“Like a descendant of Lewis Carroll and Emily Dickinson, Amy Leach brings new meaning to the world without us, and within. A reader entering this book to learn more about the universe will exit knowing much more about her own self. At once large and intimate, these essays introduce one of the most exciting and original writers in America.”
“If Donald Barthelme had made nature documentaries, the commentary might have sounded like this. Lyrical and strange, this engaging book is filled with short tales whose most perfect sentences stay with you, especially in your dreams.”
“Amy Leach is one of those rare writers who fearlessly follows her muse through the maze. (She amuses, and amazes.) Some pieces read like columns for Scientific American, written by a more cheerful Kafka. Others are like books of the Old Testament, rewritten by Charles Darwin. Reading her fresh, surprising pages, you realise how often other writers bend what they wish to say out of its natural shape, to suit markets, to fit existing genres.”
“Amy Leach is nimble, precise, dynamic, witty, and metaphysical. . . . In her heady and astute approach to natural history, her disarming concoctions of science and fancy, she is part Diane Ackerman, part Margaret Atwood. . . . Leach is ecstatic in her knowledgeable, resplendent, and exhilarating contemplations of everything from subatomic particles to dust, Spinoza, donkeys, and caterpillars.”
"Writers like Leach and Solnit help me believe that the harrowing essay will not rule the day, and that writing that pays careful attention to the world and to language, tone, and metaphorical resonance can be equally powerful as and far more enduring than the personal essay with the most online shares. To love the world, to pay attention to it, to practice patience, to cultivate the habit of curiosity that is research—these can be key to developing a writerly voice that will last and that will matter."
"For evidence that environmental writing can be anything but dry, check out Amy Leach’s genre-bending essays. These whimsical explorations of animal kingdom phenomena—exploding sea cucumbers, fainting goats, the relationship between gods and donkeys—pose important questions about our kinship with the wild world."