Rough Likeness, Lia Purpura
Rough Likeness, Lia Purpura
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 the author of seven collections of poetry, essays, and translations. Her book of essays, On Looking (Sarabande Books), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. In addition, she has earned fellowships and prizes from Pushcart Press, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright Program, the Maryland State Arts Council, Loyola University, the MacDowell Colony, the Associated Writing Program (in nonfiction), and Alice James Press (the Beatrice Hawley Award). Her essays and poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, AGNI, and The Georgia Review, among others, and were cited five times in Best American Essays. Lia Purpura is on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop and is Writer-in-Residence at Loyola University in Baltimore, MD. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, conductor Jed Gaylin, and their son.
Praise for Rough Likeness:
“Lia Purpura’s Rough Likeness is all about looking: at a landscape, at language, at a sign. The truest-looking, though, comes on the inside, as Purpura goes beneath the surface, writing not just about what she sees but what it means.”
—David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“In each of the book’s 18 brief pieces, she strives to capture subjects that seem to defy close study: an adjective, a buzzard, bits of beach glass, a warning sign. Yet she finds something insightful to say about each of them, in large part because she’s so careful with words, moving them as close as possible to those elusive truths.”
—Mark Athitakis, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Lia Purpura is at the forefront of the New Essay, 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."
"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 attentions 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