Make It Scream, Make It Burn

Make It Scream coverMake It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays
Leslie Jamison
Little, Brown and Company (September 24, 2019)
273 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $13.99

I ordinarily would not consider reading a book with a title like this, but I read at least two highly approving reviews of the book, and an Amazon review said the title had very little to do with the content of the book. The reviews I read said that the writing in this book of essays was excellent, and I’m always looking for great writing. So I bought it.

In the first half of the book the author writes about a variety of topics. She tells us about a whale whose song is at a very different frequency than that of any other whale, and who captured the imagination of thousands of people. She writes about social conditions in war-torn Sri Lanka. She describes how the Second Life virtual reality environment can give meaning to the lives of those whose circumstances in the physical world are less than optimal. She goes into detail about how James Agee’s article for Fortune magazine about sharecroppers in Alabama, which was never published, is so very different from the book he did publish, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

And can this woman write? Yes, she can. Here is an example of her marvelous prose, in which she describes Las Vegas:

quoteAll of Vegas tries too hard. But is it inauthentic? I’ve never thought so. If inauthenticity depends on pretending you are something you’re not, then Vegas has always been adamantly honest. It is all fake, all the time.

The second half of the book is different. She writes about her own life. As an individual in recovery, about failed relationships, about becoming a stepmother and trying her best not to be an evil one, and about her own high-risk pregnancy.

The writing is vivid and direct. Jamison is an accomplished essayist.

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