Essay by Jason Diamond
August 25, 2020 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 256 pages • 978-1-56689-582-8
From garage rock to Greta Gerwig, Jason Diamond asks us to reconsider the creative potential of the American suburb as he leads us down the cul-de-sac and out again.
For decades the suburbs have been where art happens “despite”: despite the conformity, the emptiness, the sameness. The familiar story is one of gems formed under pressure, creative transcendence fueled by suburban resentment. But what if the suburb has actually been an incubator for distinctly American art, as positively and as surely as in any other cultural hothouse? Mixing personal experience, cultural reportage, and history while rejecting clichés and pieties, these essays stretch across the country in an effort to show that this uniquely American milieu deserves another look.
About the Author
Jason Diamond is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. His first book was Searching for John Hughes.
Praise for The Sprawl
Chicago Tribune, “10 Summer Books to Read”
The Week, “19 Books to Read in 2020”
“In this insightful work of narrative nonfiction, journalist Diamond (Searching for John Hughes) draws from personal experience, history, and media to consider the significance of the suburbs in American culture. . . . his cultural criticism is consistently astute. This is a smart, enjoyable study that will be particularly appreciated by other suburban expats.” —Publishers Weekly
“As the narrative progresses, the author becomes increasingly eloquent about such things as pop music. . . . literature as written by the likes of Dave Eggers and Jonathan Lethem, and film such as, yes, John Hughes’ oeuvre and Sofia Coppola’s interpretation of The Virgin Suicides. . . . A literate meditation on clipped-lawn places easily taken for granted but that well deserve such reflection.” —Kirkus
“Diamond argues in a series of essays that the suburbs are essential to the development of American art and culture. He considers both the segregated nature of the suburbs themselves, grounding his study in the Chicagoland towns where he grew up, as well as the books, music and films they inspired.” —Chicago Tribune
“Despite the many stereotypes about the conformity of the suburbs, Chicago-area native Jason Diamond sees these borderland communities as the ‘incubator for distinctly American art’ . . . The Sprawl is precisely within Diamond's personal wheelhouse.” —The Week
“For those of us who grew up outside of the suburbs, or encased by suburbs, there may have been a longing to understand their interior. The Sprawl is such a generous book for how it both acknowledges the privileges of boundary but also demystifies the small living moments that take place within. This is a warm and thoughtful book that doesn’t just coast on beauty and nostalgia without challenging both.” —Hanif Abdurraqib
“Thoughtful, well-researched, and beautifully rendered, The Sprawl is a book that offers us insight into the suburban spaces that define America. Throughout each chapter, Diamond manages to be both generous and unsparing, funny and deeply thorough, in his analysis of the parking lots, privilege, and prejudice that infuse the America of our childhoods. The Sprawl is a necessary cultural analysis for understanding who we are as a nation and what we will become.” —Lyz Lenz
“Jason Diamond instinctively understands how the American suburb has shaped the American psyche, somehow both softening and igniting it—he sees the depravity and ennui that Cheever immortalized, but also the odd beauty of mowed lawns and food courts and paved driveways. A child of the suburbs myself, I devoured this smart, probing, and deeply human meditation on what it means to be promised comfort, and what it feels like to tear yourself apart trying to escape it.” —Amanda Petrusich
Praise for Searching for John Hughes
“Tells a heartbreaking story of restless youth, imposter syndrome, and the movies that help him make sense of it all. . . . Makes me want to tell my parents and children how much I love them . . . and then curl up on the couch and watch The Breakfast Club.” —Emma Straub, author of the New York Times bestsellers Modern Lovers and The Vacationers
“With geniality, humor and charm, Diamond explores the ways in which cinematic fantasy can influence, overshadow, and help us to escape reality. This book is for anyone playing out an eternal adolescence.” —Melissa Broder, author of So Sad Today
“Jason Diamond writes with equal parts wit and candor about what happens when life diverges wildly from the suburban fairy tales made popular by John Hughes. Diamond passionately conveys how lovely it is when we find less cinematic but harder earned happy endings on our own terms.” —Maris Kreizman, author of Slaughterhouse 90210
“Oh look, it’s all my favorite things in one book: Chicago, New York City, punk rock, food, and existential crises . . . Bittersweet, charming and hilarious . . . details the longing and struggle of an aspiring writer with clarity, wit, and heart.” —Jami Attenberg, New York Times, best-selling author of The Middlesteins and Saint Mazie
“Both funny and heartbreaking, Diamond’s memoir is not just an account of how one director’s films impacted-and perhaps saved-his life. It is also a memorable reflection on what it means to let go of the past and grow up. A quirkily intelligent memoir of finding oneself in movies.” —Kirkus