First, Lawrence Weschler freelanced for L.A. Weekly; then, an interview with artist Robert Irwin he completed with UCLA's Oral History Program became his ticket to The New Yorker, where he wrote for over two decades. His first best-seller was the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, a look at the Museum of Jurassic Technology and its curator that explored the tradition of cabinets of curiosity. Such quirky, generously informed and engaging works of "writerly nonfiction" are, to this day, his trademark. His latest, Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences (McSweeney's, 200 pages, $29), is the perfect marriage between Weschler—who now acts as the director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU—and Dave Eggers' indie publishing empire, McSweeney's, which has long been subject to attacks for its allegedly relentless satire and sentimentality. That emphasis on difference and experimentation can, paradoxically, feel oddly predictable.
Fear not: Weschler is the real deal. Everything grew out of a folder of random essays on artistic associations he'd been collecting. It's a potpourri of works that links the visual associations between Grant Wood's American Gothic and a photo of a father and son outside of the World Trade Center, delves into the implications of the Polish Solidarity movement's logo, and Newt Gingrich and Slobodan Milosevic's physical similarities in the unforgettable "Pillsbury Doughboy Messiahs." After a few essays in Everything, you will notice associations everywhere.
When asked about any hopeful signs he detected for the future of addressing large numbers of readers, Weschler once said, "There is McSweeney's, for example, which is evidence that there is a huge potential readership, in that case largely made up of 25-year-olds.... So the challenge is to create more magazines like that, and to make this rebirth happen. Which is what I'm trying to do." With this perfect introduction to Weschler's formidable oeuvre, he's doing just that.
Lawrence Weschler's reading/event at ripe's Back Room (7 pm Monday, March 13, 2240 N Interstate Ave.) is sold out, but Everything That Rises