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Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape : Meditations on Ruin and Redemption (Paperback) (Matt Donovan)

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The title cloud of Matt Donavan’s extraordinary nonfiction debut, A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape, refers to the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius that in 79 AD buried the city of Pompeii under twenty feet of ash. Today a remarkable 2.5 million people a year visit the ruins of the Italian city. It’s no surprise, then, that Donovan found the sacred place a site of inspiration and power, devoting six pieces to exploring the homes and villas that have been preserved. Donavan takes off from various points in the Roman ruins to explore the inconstancy of any given moment alongside the processes used to make casts of the vacancies left by the city’s dead to create positive monuments to their last gestures.Donovan pursues the image of the cloud throughout his spell-binding meditations on ruin and redemption. He explores the cloud of the original atomic bomb test at the Trinity site. From there, he inevitably touches on the same cloud rising above Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He uses the occasion of the provocative film The Day After,” aired in 1983, starring JoBeth Williams, Steve Guttenberg, John Cullum, Jason Robards, and John Lithgow, to explore a fictional account of a nuclear attack on the U.S. Though his mother objected to Donovan’s seeing the film, it was shown in his school, giving him another cascading image of the mushroom cloud, which was viewed by 100 million people, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in history. In his signature style, Donovan takes off from the literal event to explore how our imaginations are shaped by the popular images of nuclear destruction.Moving from atomic devastation to the beauty of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, Donovan finds the sort of uncanny connections that enliven his work at every turn. For the war years when the U.S. was fighting Japan, the cherry trees in our nation’s capital were downplayed. Much later they were resuscitated to create a festival to celebrate the lovely clouds of cherry blossoms beloved by visitors and citizens alike.Tragedy becomes more personal for the author when a dear friend is diagnosed with cancer. And there are heart-stopping references to the campus of Kent State, where as a kid, Donovan explored the site and the ruination of six students killed during an anti-Vietnam-war protest.In the final section of the book, Almost a Full Year of Stone, Light, and Sky,” Donovan focuses on the Pantheon in Rome. This expansive lyric essay serves as a kind of bookend to the Pompeii sequence at the beginning. Instead of meditating on a place of apocalypse, however, Donovan explores an ancient building that has avoided, against all odds, of becoming a ruin. In addition to investigating the structure’s history, the author explores the uses of secular beauty through interwoven meditations on subjects as diverse as Walter De Maria’s Lightning Fields, the legend of the Tower of Babel, the pa
Number of Pages: 253
Genre: Literary Collections
Sub-Genre: Essays
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Pgw
Author: Matt Donovan
Language: English
Street Date: April 12, 2016
TCIN: 51126326
UPC: 9781595347602
Item Number (DPCI): 248-15-7586
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