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A Language Dark Enough
by Tony Whedon

Price: $16.00
248 pages
trade paper
ISBN: 092281158X
LCCN #: 2004003509

Combining travel memoir, literary criticism, and art history, these essays reflect on the poetry and culture of the dispossessed and the survival of the creative spirit under conditions of poverty, political oppression, and exile. Woven into the author's experiences in Haiti, China, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Spain, and the Green Mountains of Vermont are observations on Latin jazz, the art of trombone playing, painting, sculpture, folk culture, and the poetry of Bei Dao, Zbigniew Herbert, Osip Mandelstam, Manuel Frederico Ponce, Ovid, Dante, and Homer. Whedon's unusual synthesis of scholarly and impressionistic writing is as unpredictable yet purposeful as a jazz improvisation. These diverse essays are unified by the traveler's search for a place where he, himself, can be at home.

Finalist, The 2005 Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers

"Sweet, crisp prose, which from paragraph to paragraph nearly sings on the page."—American Book Review

"A former professional jazz trombonist turned professor of writing at Vermont's Johnson State College, Whedon draws on his musical background and passion for literature in this collection of personal ruminations, wild travel tales and riffs on poverty and political oppression. The book's title comes from a line in Dante's Inferno, appropriate since Whedon seems intent on descending into hellish situations. As he writes about teaching English in China, or navigating governmental procedure in Haiti, Cuba and Ecuador, his restless energy suffuses both his travels and his writing style. Although he sometimes stumbles into politically shaky situations inadvertently, he never ignores the ugliness of what he sees, and his cool observations bring the work to a different level. His self-imposed exile has many of the elements that make good travel memoirs even better: whimsy, grace and contemplation."—Publishers Weekly

"Whedon documents how his love of music, art, and literature enabled him to be less of a stranger in places like Haiti, China, Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, and Spain. As an American educational exchange instructor in China, he experienced the students' reaction to the Cultural Revolution through the poetry and essays they studied and wrote, while in Havana, he surrounded himself with the joyful madness of the local musicians. Throughout, Whedon embraces cultural differences and emphasizes the resilience of people struggling in countries where the political climate can make daily living especially difficult. In conjunction with his travel essays, Whedon also offers a few mood pieces revealing some of his personal challenges."—Library Journal

"Tony Whedon’s wonderful essays have been appearing in literary journals for many years, and it is gratifying to now have a collection of them available. In an age of crabbed specialization, Whedon’s polymath fluency is highly refreshing. He addresses the subjects of travel and exile with his typical élan, equally at ease with Dante, Tu Fu, Santeria, Cuban Jazz, Goya, and the Ecuadorian rainforest. Just as importantly, he is a writer of austere self-appraisals, ones that never devolve to the merely confessional. He possesses something ofMontaigne’s curiosity and capacity for astonishment, writing learnedly and soulfully at once.”—David Wojahn

"If Charlie Parker had composed 'A Night in Tunisia' as a book of essays to open the new century, it might have been Tony Whedon's A Language Dark Enough. Like Parker's solos, Whedon's essays are lines of flight, departing from enclosures, secrets, and embargoed regions. He doesn't play the blues so much as he practices them in attention, listening, and bearing witness. This is not really travel writing, but it takes you somewhere—somewhere blue in language like Dante's—dark enough."—Belle Waring

"The book is a well-written, unusual mix of memoir, travel writing and poetry about the survival of the creative spirit under difficult conditions."—The Rutland Herald

 


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