Essays by Valeria Luiselli
May 13, 2014 • 5.25 x 8.5 • 120 pages • 978-1-56689-356-5
Cosmopolitan, vivacious essays in the tradition of Brodsky’s Watermark and Benjamin’s The Arcades Project by a celebrated young Mexican author.
Valeria Luiselli is an evening cyclist; a literary tourist in Venice, searching for Joseph Brodsky’s tomb; an excavator of her own artifacts, unpacking from a move. In essays that are as companionable as they are ambitious, she uses the city to exercise a roving, meandering intelligence, seeking out the questions embedded in our human landscapes.
About the Author
Valeria Luiselli was born Mexico City in 1983 and grew up in South Africa. A novelist (Faces in the Crowd) and essayist (Sidewalks), her work has been translated into many languages and has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the New Yorker, Granta, and McSweeney’s. In 2014, Faces in the Crowd was the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award. Her forthcoming novel, The Story of My Teeth, will be available from Coffee House Press in fall 2015.
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“Together with [Luiselli’s novel] Faces in the Crowd, her essays in Sidewalks are a wonderful contribution to the long tradition by which authors re-imagine their cities as dream-like spaces created for them to wander around, daydream and discover.” —Los Angeles Times
“[Luiselli’s] subtexts become almost a guide—asides we might hear from the city itself, whispering to us as we walk of bicycle through it, speaking of its secrets. So it is with the best travel books and memoirs, those that go beyond simply recounting a journey. They allow the reader to wander with the writer; to tap into her voice and imagination.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Luiselli’s writing is full of verve.” —Irish Times
“The disciplines conversed within Sidewalks include cartography, architecture, and urban planning; Luiselli bicycles through Mexico City, strolls the New York City streets, and visits Joseph Brodsky’s grave in Venice. These wanderings are unified by a distinctive narrative voice: pensive, questioning, always something of a stranger in a strange land.” —Publishers Weekly
“If every word, for her, has the shadow of two others behind it, and if every city in which she lives carries the ghostly afterimage of all the other cities she has known—as well as the voices of the writers she has researched upon her arrival—then her books become all the more enthralling for the multiplicity they champion. . . . The great beauty of her art is seeing all her contrasting stories collapse or blend or combine into an unexpected whole.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“The essays in Sidewalks don’t connect or come together, and they aren’t commenting on a single thing; what we have is the Mexico City native (the book was lovingly translated from Spanish by Christine MacSweeney) distilling observations from her walks and the thinking she does on them. Handled any other way, that sort of thing could render any book of essays tedious and ultimately boring, but Luiselli turns it into something illuminating and delightful.” —Flavorwire
“These essays take an unhurried pace well-suited for the ambling walks and bike rides that inspired them, deepened by literary and historical asides that situate these places in a context beyond the present moment. Language holds as much significance as geography here.” —Publishers Weekly
“Place, identity and the limitations of language converge in this slim collection of illuminating and incisive essays. . . . These essays are more impressive in both their expansiveness and epigrammatic precision.” —Kirkus
“Luiselli’s spare and probing essays touch on a variety of subjects and are unified by a capacious imagination.” —SFGate
“Whether they are tectonic plates shifting beneath the surface of a paragraph or the double wrecking ball of the line break above and below every aphorism, the formal choices of Sidewalks are in conversation with the loud silences and composed fragmentations inherent in life and literature.” —Lapham’s Quarterly
“This book is the greatest of all things: a novel meant to be reread.” —The Rumpus
“Luiselli’s experimental essays are subdivided into brief, poignant observations that combine elements of travel writing, literary criticism and memoir. . . . Places, even the absence of places, are the landscapes across which her imagination and intellect travel in this masterful collection of essays.” —Longitude
“[Faces in the Crowd and Sidewalks] have a combined weight that dwarfs the already considerable gravity they individually have.” —KGB Bar
“For Luiselli, like Borges, the continuity between literature and reality is such that, if literature is a process of the imagination, then the world from which art is created is inseparably a part of that dream.” —PANK
“Luiselli is exceptionally good at weaving together seemingly disparate parts to make a whole essay that feels at once thoughtful, surprising, and carefully constructed.” —Your Impossible Voice
“‘A writer is a person who distributes silences and empty spaces.’ What a pleasure to wander through Valeria Luiselli’s meditative, precisely constructed landscapes of the city and interior. To read her essays is to have access to a map, a history, an passionate library, a thoughtful gaze, a sensitive and beautiful mind.” —Kate Zambreno
“In a little over one hundred pages the peripatetic Luiselli covers Mexico City, Venice and New York—amongst others—with a quick eye and a scholar’s heart. She is a keen excavator and expositor; the history of places, people, words and ideas are deftly woven together in brief tapestries of a life lived around the world.” —Review 31
“Valeria Luiselli is a writer of formidable talent, destined to be an important voice in Latin American letters. Her vision and language are precise, and the power of her intellect is in evidence on every page.” —Daniel Alarcon
“Her essays are philosophical, smart, wandering. They feel natural, uncontrived, relaxed.” —Asymptote
“In publishing [Faces in the Crowd, a] novel about a translator living in Mexico City, and Luiselli’s superb collection of essays, Sidewalks, Coffee House has helped push into the world a great writer who everybody should know about.” —Flavorwire
“On the cartography of empty spaces, by Valeria Luiselli, who is startlingly good writer.” —Alexis Madrigal
“Luiselli’s words (and Christina MacSweeney’s translation) seem to flow effortlessly across the page, and one could describe these glimpses into the author’s world as graceful prose poems or laments.” —JacqueWine
“Reminiscent of Sebald and Walser, unafraid of her own authority, Luiselli has produced an essay collection less heralded than many others this year and far better.” —New York Magazine
“A beautiful, meandering collection of essays full of filaments of brilliance on everything from literature, philosophy, traveling in graveyards, to untranslatable words. The book is full of deep insights yet remains unpretentious throughout.” —Publishers Weekly
“Valeria Luiselli’s hallucinatory novel follows a young academic drawn to the life of the early 20th-century poet Gilbert Owen. What begins as obsession takes a surreal turn, and the two narratives begin to influence and haunt each other.” —OZY
“Luiselli navigates a tricky path through the essay. A cemetery’s graves, like an unread book, contains what we do not know; a less adept essayist could very well lose clarity and precision when presented with that great expanse of information. But Luiselli relishes the unknowns.” —Essay Daily