Rough Likeness

2012

Rough Likeness

Lia Purpura’s essays are full of joy in the act of intense observation; they’re also deliciously subversive and alert to the ways language gets locked and loaded by culture. These elegant, conversational excursions refuse to let a reader slide over anything, from the tiniest shards of beach glass to barren, big-box wastelands. They detonate distractedness, superficiality, artificiality. In the process, Purpura inhabits many stances: metaphysician and biologist, sensualist and witness — all in service of illuminating that which Virginia Woolf called “moments of being” — previously unworded but palpably felt states of existence and knowing. Rough Likeness finds worlds in the minute, and crafts monuments to beauty and strangeness.

“Lia Purpura is at the forefront of the New Essayists, and this latest book (her best) takes us much closer into the rough terrain of her quirky mind than she has ever gone before. The surprises and insights keep coming. Rough Likeness is an astonishment — a book to savor, read slowly, smile at, sigh at, and cherish”  — Phillip Lopate

“Lia Purpura is fierce. She creates a kind of word origami, folding phonemes and inquiries into intricate paper delights. Then she holds a magnifying glass over them, focusing her rapturous attention through the lens, until twists of smoke appear, and geometries of flame, and sparks rain. If language is, as she suggests in one essay, ‘a game we all {agree} to play,’ then Purpura is at once a master of the game and a soulful, wild playmate.                — Leah Hager Cohen

“Purpura . . .puts readers into a state of aesthetic arrest, as well as surprise, discomfort and meditative pleasure via her pristine, radiant, and unflinching collage-like essays.”                      — Donna Seaman, Booklist