As you might expect from a writer fluent in cardinal since age six, Nezhukumatathil’s essays are brimming with intimate scenes of natural life, each presented with exuberant prose that mingles scientific exactitude (the stunning pink of the dragon fruit is due to “a rind chock full of lycopene”) with unabashed whimsy (a gray cockatiel is “about three apples tall” and a piece of quartz tastes “like campfire smoke”). As much vivid snapshots as impeccably crafted prose, these brief pieces draw on fable, travel, and memoir to introduce plants and animals ranging from dancing frogs and the impossibly cute smiling axolotl to the more familiar monarch butterfly and flamingo. Linking each creature to the stages of her life--from her childhood as the rare brown person in overwhelmingly white communities, through the loneliness of college, her marriage (to a man who understood the charms of the foul-smelling corpse-flower), motherhood, and career as a teacher and award-winning poet— Nezhukumatathil illuminates the essential bonds between people and the beautiful, singular, awesome—wonderful—flora and fauna we share this planet with. While recognizing the troubles of this divided time, Nezhukumatathil’s first foray into prose is a genuine and whole-heartedly upbeat book.
I am convinced that a thousand years from now, once human civilization has recovered from its impending doom, some future citizen of the world will discover this tome, marvel at its heft and gilded pages, show it to their peers, and declare that they have found one of the more significant finds in literary archaeology. This book is an anthology chronicling the first twenty-one years of the seminal humor website, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and it is no exaggeration when I say that reading this book is an enterprise in hilarity and a balm for our troubled times.
For those trying to make sense of the death of a loved one, they will find in Rilke’s letter of condolences a balm for pain and suffering of loss. We already know through his poetry that Rilke has both special connection to the spiritual essence of the world and the unparalleled ability to string the most beautiful and profound sentences out of this connection. In these letters, he shows a different side of his twin talents as he consoles and uplifts the acquaintances, friends, and family members who have sought him for comfort in the aftermath of loss.