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Community & Home

Aren’t road trips, exploring the byways, small towns, and back roads of America wonderful? Exiting the big highways, taking a little time with the journey and exploring local features is endlessly fascinating. Do it with someone equally curious and the country opens up, sharing clues of history, hope, community and conflict. It leads to questions about the people and their towns and villages. What is life like there? What is different and what is the same from where we live now? Or from that other place we visited?

Those questions have come up repeatedly on the many times I’ve traveled between Chicago and Minneapolis, just as they have on the back and forth between Chicago and Duluth, Minnesota. Over time that family has spent a fair bit of time in Wisconsin. We’ve stopped to check out Chippewa Falls, where the boots used to be made, the superb pies of the Norse Nook in its several locations, the old-time trains in Traigo – there are always things happening when we take the time to look and listen.

That same care and consideration is a key theme in Michael Perry’s outstanding account of New Auburn, Wisconsin, Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at at Time. When he wrote it in 2002, the town had eleven streets and one water tower. It’s not much bigger today, though the population his inched up slightly. Perry grew up in New Auburn, left, obtained an education and a nursing degree, and returned at a moment in his life when he wanted to write. He’s been writing ever since. With some time on his hands – his characterization, not mine – Perry decided to join the volunteer fire department. He is both insider and outsider in New Auburn. Perry is one of the townies, comfortable with deer hunting, beer, the Packers, flannel and snowmobiles. He’s also cut from a different cloth, an author observing and connected to a rich vein of scholarship.

Crafted from those traits, Population 485 is a series of related yet distinct essays woven into a coherent and moving book. Key themes appear in different guises: Perry’s meditation on the town, the community, and the ways that functioning as a first responder inserts him into the community. He addresses life and death – literally – and participates in the many ways that the town’s inhabitants hope, heal, help each other and die.

Perry teaches us about the processes and protocols of being a volunteer firefighter. They are the professionals that we call when there’s an emergency, from heart attack to car crash to barn fire. It is extraordinarily important work that I knew little about directly, particularly from the perspective of a first responder. This kind of crisis response and intervention calls for a special sort of caring, an ability to shut off normal emotions – fear, disgust, concern – and to be able to treat quickly and decisively. Perry and his colleagues do care, though. It is not just stopping bleeding and immobilizing patients. They have have to find ways to address their feelings and to process their intimate relationship with loss.

As the narrative unspools we learn about the history of the town and its people, the births, deaths, events and the day-to-day. Perry has a keen eye and a superb ear. His observations are sharp and kind, leavened with generosity and a gratitude for being able to pay attention. Perry does not romanticize. More than a good writer, he’s a good person – and that shines through the prose and the many ways he helps his neighbors.

Above and beyond specifics, Population: 485 opens a window into small town Wisconsin life, and through that, reflections on family, community, and what truly matters to us. It is a deeply philosophical book, though neither preachy nor didactic. Perry’s mind and work runs regularly to the deep questions that direct our lives. They are also sometimes the most difficult issues to address.

I heartily recommend Michael Perry’s book to you, and I will keep you posted, as well. I’m going to read more from this northern Wisconsin firefighter-writer.

David Potash

On The Run

Ricky Gates was a high school running star, a varsity college cross-country athlete, and eventually a professional runner who never crossed the threshold as a successful competitive racer. When his career as a professional athlete started to wind down, he was faced with the onset of middle age, or at least early middle age, and the scary prospect of growing up and accepting new responsibilities. His long-term relationship was failing. He was in crisis. A doer, not a reflective thinker, Gates decided to use his stresses and to look externally for what many of us search for internally. He wanted to do something big, something significant. He decided to run across the United States.

The factors motivating Gates make sense and also don’t fully add up. Certainly his desire to push himself with a noteworthy quest is understandable. Relatively unfamiliar with America, Gates wondered about the great diversity within the nation. The election of Donald Trump as president also stirred question for Gate. The difficulties with his then girlfriend and now wife, Liz, also spurred him. I would wager, too, that if one were to question Gates, he would not be able to give one definitive reason. He’s a man driven by the desire to push himself. Regardless of the cause, Ricky Gates did something special, a transcontinental run over five months in 2017. His account of that journey, the photos he took, and his later observations he crafted into an engaging and strangely curious book, Cross Country.

Like millions of others who traveled west, Gates started his journey on the east coast and finished in California. To make it all the more epic, he literally dipped his foot in the Atlantic Ocean and completed the trek with a foot wet in the Pacific Ocean. It’s important to emphasize that this was no glamour tour. The budget was minuscule. No big sponsors traveled alongside, showering Gates with press and goodies. In fact, showers were a treat along the way. The plan depended in great part on perseverance by Gates and the kindness of strangers he hoped to meet. Happily, all emerged. There are many generous and trusting people in America and Ricky Gates was fortunate to run into many of them.

Cross Country gives us that story while sharing details of hard running cross-country. The trip meant wrestling with bad weather, the challenges of mini-tents, exhaustion, blisters, and even the dangers of hydration. Suffering and overcoming challenges is a key part of the book. Gates pushed himself to exhaustion. He is a survivor and competition is in his core.

The real heart of the book, though, is about the people Gates met, the many encounters he had along the way meandering west. The book’s subtitle is apt: “A 3,700 mile run to explore unseen America.” There is much to see if we get off the major highways. Gates seems to have an engaging and trusting manner, leading to many stories and good. Gates avoided interstates, running where he could appreciate local customs and people.

There’s an entertaining cast of characters, from eccentrics to random “normal” folks in Cross Country. Unsurprisingly, Gates finds more and has more to share in the eastern part of the US, especially in the South. When he makes his way out to the lightly settled west, the running is isolated and grueling.

Gates is no de Tocqueville and he makes no pretense at theorizing. Cross Country is not a scholarly study. It is personal, direct and without an agenda beyond a man challenging his demons by pushing himself in truly amazing fashion. It is an affirming account of drive and the warm and welcoming nature of so many Americans.

David Potash

Terror in the Jungle: Brilliant Wartime Literature

All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque, is probably the most famous work of literature set in World War I. If there was a corresponding work set in the southeast Asia theater of World War II, I would nominate Trial By Battle. Written by David Piper, an art historian who later became “Sir David” and led the National Portrait Gallery, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Ashmolean Museum, it is a brilliant work of semi-autobiographical fiction. Haunting and profound, Trial by Battle is an outstanding novel that is worthy of literary scholarship. It is the kind of literature that makes graduate students reach for theory. Many thanks to the Imperial War Museum for reissuing this fine book.

The novel focuses on the experience of a young intellectual swept up in the horrors of war. Alan Mart is our thin, thoughtful, and all-too-sensitive hero who turns into a killer. The war does that to everyone who wants to survive. Born into the upper class, Mart is an officer by default. A thinker, he has little connection with the troops he commands, the natives he encounters, and his fellow officers. The book opens in India, as the Japanese military is capturing gigantic swaths of the British empire in southeast Asia, and then moves to Malay. The Japanese are the looming military threat to everyone’s existence. They take no prisoners, the men regularly repeat, and in that environment, what can one do? The jungle, its humidity and impenetrable vegetation, is ominous and oppressive, almost character in its own right. There is little in the environment that does not need to be confronted, battled or bypassed.

Mart struggles to make sense of who he is, why he is there, and the placement and motives of others. He is a thoughtful soul. Piper spins out an outstanding inner dialogue. The action, though, is far from intellectual. Mart’s guide, mentor, tormentor and nemesis is a long-time soldier, Sam Holl. An alcoholic and adrenaline junkie, Holl’s behavior and comments offer a way for Mart and the reader to get a handle on the bigger picture of the war. There is no one truth. It’s a complex endeavor, with little clear consequence for action, either good or bad. Characters, just like people in real life, when given the opportunity for agency, may or may not take advantage of possibilities and they may or may not receive the benefits. For reasons that he does not fully understand, Mart turns down a safer and less impactful role as a translator. Does he seek the trial by battle? Is he trying to prove himself? He misses his fiance terribly. Piper’s text provides a searing sense of what it must have been like, far from home in an dangerous place, to try to lead and make sensible decisions – whatever sensible means. Circumstances and environment distort and complicate everything. And all this takes place while hoping not to be killed by a more organized foe.

Stating the Piper’s prose is excellent does not do it justice. He writes as though all non-essential parts of the story have been excised. What remains is powerful and lyrical.

Piper’s experience was the basis for the novel. As recounted by his son, Piper enlisted and served in the war in southeast Asia. He was captured at the age of twenty-one. Time in a Japanese POW camp nearly killed him. Though Piper had a wildly successful career in the arts, the wartime horrors profoundly affected him. He did not discuss it with his family. His wife was a model for Mart’s fiancee. It was only in the 1950s, long after returning to Britain, that Piper was able to get his thoughts down on paper.

I hope that crafting Trial by Battle was more than therapeutic for David Piper. While the novel may have been a way for Piper to process his horrific wartime experience, it is a frightfully good work of prose. Had he chosen a career as a novelist, I have no doubt that he would have been wildly successful. As it is, I’m most grateful that he survived his own World War II trial.

David Potash

Albanian Intrigue

In Tolstoy’s epic historical novel, War and Peace, the Battle of Borodino is described from the on the ground perspectives of confused, terrified, and (occasionally) heroic characters. It’s a fascinating mix. Tolstoy’s writing is gripping and memorable;. He describes the “fog of war” in a way that would resonate with the phrase’s creator, Carl von Clausewitz, the famed scholar of war. Tolstoy contrasts that reality of the fighting soldier with official accounts and the work of historians. They craft, after the fact, stories of actions that make sense, buttressed by intentionality and causality. Which of these approaches is more accurate? The account of the confused participant or the rational official narrative promoted by officials and taught to school children?

That tension between personal and official is woven through an intriguing World War II novel from the Imperial War Museum, Eight Hours from England. It is a dark novel of spies, betrayal and double crosses, set in Albania in 1943. The Germans had occupied the country throughout much of the war, but their control was slipping, becoming tenuous. The Allies sought to pressure the situations. The Albanians, roughly organized into a communist and nativist camps, was less interested in Allies versus Axis and more in their own country. Each sought to gain political control in the face of the larger war in the Mediterranean. Into this complicated mix of non-aligned alliances, British Major John Overton is sent to organize the resistance and convince the Albanians to fight against the Nazis.

The novel is based on the personal wartime experience of Anthony Quayle, a name that might sound familiar if you are a movie or theater buff. Quayle (1913-1989) was one of England’s most famous and successful actors. A star on stage and in cinema, Sir Anthony was nominated for an Oscar and was in many important films (Lawrence of Arabia and Anne of a Thousand Days, to name a few). He directed, organized theater companies, and had a most impressive stint in World War II. An officer in the Royal Artillery, he joined Special Operations and was dispatched to Albania. His lived challenges, in all their frustration, became the foundation for Eight Hours From England.

Quayle’s time in Albania was extraordinarily dangerous. Fellow operatives and Albanians died. The post was debilitating. When he was extracted, he had to spend significant time in hospital recovering. Quayle considered his mission a failure. With the benefit of hindsight and better understanding of the contours of the war in the Mediterranean, it is difficult to imagine a different outcome for the initiative. With little knowledge of the people or its culture and few longstanding partners on the ground, Britain’s influence in Albanian politics during the war was destined to be negligible at best. Add to that the swirling alliances in Europe in 1944, before the US landing at Normandy, and it is understandable why leaders and their groups hedged their promises. Quayle and Overton’s mission was a lightly-resourced attempt that had little chance of success.

Realistic pessimism, accordingly, is a string that hums throughout the book. Like other war novels based on personal accounts, the limits of agency and influence are emphasized with an immediacy that is almost palpable. It may all be well and good to serve and perhaps be considered heroic, but for those in the field, fate and happenstance loom large. War is an indifferent beast. That realization makes the actions of the novel’s characters, and Quayle, all the more moving. They know and we know, yet they continue to do all that they can.

Quayle’s writing is outstanding and ranks among the best of the cloak and dagger war thrillers. He is very good at building tension. Quayle skillfully builds tension, leaves clues, and is judicious when he wants to make broader points. The people and landscape are deftly sketched. Damp Albanian caves, impoverished villages and even poor teeth find their way into the text in a manner that enriches the novel. Should Quayle abandoned acting, he would have been a celebrated author. And if Eight Hours to England had found a willing investor, it most certainly would have made a very stirring film.

David Potash

Evergreen Memories

All aspects of British life were affected by World War II, from the front lines to the forests, from factories to farms. It disrupted lives, labor, choices, and opportunities, especially with regard to gender. One fascinating example of how the war ushered in different ways of living was the Women’s Land Army. The concept behind it was straightforward: with men in service, the country needed agricultural labor. Why not employ young women? Initially set up in WWI, the Women’s Land Army was disbanded and then re-created in 1939. Land Girls, first volunteers and then conscripts, worked on farms throughout the UK, doing what had been men’s work. More than 80,000 women took part. Britain had its women riveters; it also had women farm hands.

One of the Land Girls was Margaret Hazel Watson (1921-2016). Published in 1943 under the pseudonym Barbara Whitton, her novel Green Hands was about her wartime experience. It was recently reissued as an Imperial War Museum Wartime Classic. The book is fascinating, engaging and a surprisingly warm account of people working and living through challenges. As much memoir as novel, it has a candor and directness that pulled me in with its language and charm. It is a lovely read.

The book’s structure is very much like a diary without dates. As it opens the narrator is sent to a distant Scottish farm where she toils with two other young women. It’s cold, wet, extremely uncomfortable and they do very difficult work. Digging mangolds, a kind of beet, by hand is tough and unappealing. There’s little support. It’s simply backbreaking labor in bad conditions. The young women are discounted, distrusted, and never properly thanked. They persevere. The account of the day-to-day – what people wore, what they ate and drank, how they interacted with each other, what the actual work was like – is fascinating. World War II may not have been all that long ago but the working conditions on farms speak to a harsh and difficult life. Green Hands is a bracing corrective to romantic accounts for British farm life.

After one of the girls gives up – it was simply too unpleasant – the other two are sent to a dairy farm in the north of England. Their work was different, yet still very hard, and the pair bonded as deep friends. They connected more with the community, meeting families, more friends, fellow laborers and others in military service posted nearby. Bee, our narrator, recounts gains and challenges, from learning how to drive the milk cart to wrestling with the sexism of the other farmers. There’s a great sense of the young women growing, both in terms of skills and their own sense of self-worth. The book’s arc follows the form of many other coming of age stories.

Through it all, Bee simply has just the most charming way of looking at things. She never fails to see the humor, her descriptions are deft and not lacking bite, and more than once I thought of how a twentieth century Jane Austen might about what it was like to work for a dairy. Whitton-Watson is that smart and good a writer, with that kind of temperament. She is definitely the kind of person you would want on your island – or farm.

The book’s supporting material references that Watson and her two Land Girl co-workers remained friends and in touch for the rest of their lives. It’s easy to see why. With the right colleagues and partners, the most difficult of circumstances can forge lifetime bonds. Green Hands is much more than personal account. It is a lyrical record of resolution, charm, and the impact of shared labor in difficult circumstances in support of a very worthy cause.

David Potash

British WWII Intrigue

What is it about England that produces so many good mysteries? Is it something in the water, the air, or the culture that gives writers the tools to craft so many outstanding who dunnits? I don’t assiduously read the genre – there are those who readily devour mysteries at a frightening pace – but it’s impossible to read widely and not appreciate the heavy hitters, from Arthur Conan Doyle to Agatha Christie to P.D. James to many others. And among that list, I propose including Kathleen Hewitt.

Hewitt (1893 – 1980) was a prolific writer and playwright, active in London literary and artistic circles, and a well-received author during her lifetime. Thanks to the Imperial War Museum, one of her mysteries, Plenty Under the Counter, was recently reissued. It is, if you will pardon the phrase, a cracking good tale. Called a “wartime classic” by the series editors, it is a page-turner in the tradition of the best sort of mystery.

Plenty Under the Counter is set in London during the Blitz. The war’s conclusion was unknown, the city was under attack, and flourishing throughout the metropolis was an underground economy. That feature of the tale is particularly interesting, as it gives a real flavor for life at the time. Hewitt wrote the book in 1943 as she lived in London, navigated the bombed out streets, and clearly had a handle on the pulse of the city. It bears emphasizing, too, that she was a well-established author at this time. Her talents shine throughout. Characters are distinct, diverse and deftly sketched. Plotting is tight and the time frame compressed, giving an urgency to the story. It is skillfully crafted work that I could easily see finding its way to the stage or cinema.

The book’s hero is an airman on the last week of leave. Flight Lieutenant David Heron is keen on seeing his nurse girlfriend, but as the story opens, there’s a body in the garden of his boarding house with a knife in its back. Heron is good friends with “Meakie,” the former showgirl who runs the house and is having a difficult time with her errant daughter, Thelma. The cast of characters include a fellow navy seaman, a German doctor, a spinster, a maid and the criminals lurking about. Heron’s self-appointed task is solving the crime and we’re along for the ride.

It’s a truly enjoyable read, very good fun and a great example of the genre.

David Potash

Rap Scholar Warriors

Daniel Levin Becker is a scholar, a critic, a translator, and a massive fan of rap. A wordsmith as well as a literary investigator, Becker knows his way around sophisticated prose, poetry, and lyrics. In What’s Good: Notes on Rap and Language, Becker makes a compelling case for a reappraisal of the genius of rap and hip hop lyricism. It’s a love letter penned by a very smart, very knowledgeable fan. I was super impressed and the more I read (and listened), the more I learned.

The book ranges from early days to present, East Coast, West Coast, and local scenes. The chapters are short, akin to aphorisms, each taking up a theme, a question, a connection or a lyric. Becker’s skill is dazzling, drawing out histories and relationships, outlining meaning and meanings. He’s an obsessed expert and he wants to share, to give us the same sense of wonder and admiration. The wordplay, the interplay, the stories and the ways that artists reference each other, admire each other and dis each other is extremely interesting. You have to know to know, though.

It worked for me. I revisited tracks and listened to many new ones. Reading What’s Good is best with a Spotify account, a good pair of headphones, and rap curiosity. My default is to pay closer attention to the beat, but now I’m going to spend more time on Genius (formerly Rap Genius) exploring the wordplay.

And the title for this post? It turns out that many white fans of rap (count Becker and me among them) find an accessible entry point in the works of Jurassic 5. One of their tracks that always makes me smile is Quality Control. Check out the lyrics – it may be old but its message resonates, particularly when it comes to figuring out what is good. Ayo!

David Potash

The Tale of a Fabulist

A short and unusual book, appropriately befitting its short, elusive and inscrutable subject, The Professor and the Parson is Adam Sisman’s biography of a man who never was what he pretended to be. Subtitled “A Story of Desire, Deceit and a Defrocking,” it is the history of an inveterate liar and the famous Oxbridge historian who tracked him. Rigorously researched and woven throughout with questions of “Why?” the book paints a picture of a man whose core essence eludes.

Robert Parkins Peters – though he had more than a few names over the decades – was a confidence man who inveigled his way into academia, schools and churches in the UK, Canada, America and South Africa for decades. In fact, Peter’s entire life, his curriculum vitae if you will, was deception, outrage and flight. He would make up credentials, forge letters of reference, and talk his way into a wide range of posts. None of these positions carried with them much money. They were all spots with intellectual, moral or cultural capital. He’d lead a church, support a program, and pretend to research.

Among the many questions haunting this biography, one is puzzled about why Peters chose this route. Was it some pathological need? For a man who had nothing real to his name, Peters was all about status. Peters used the same tactics and responses again again. He would move to a new place, find a position through forgery and deception, and then do a rotten job in the role. One of the great ironies of the story was the Peters was consistently ineffective in these positions. He was loud-spoken, given to bluster and rigidity, and more often than not, disliked the longer he stayed in one place. Did he ever believe that he’d find a real professional home?

When Peter was challenged, and he invariably would be from a reference, colleague, manager or offended woman, his response was consistent. He would fight back with outrage, litigation and noise. Cries of persecution, of skullduggery, or worse would cloud the issue. The smoke would dissipate and Peters would be fired or he would resign, moving to another place and starting again. Occasionally punctuating this cycle was a spot in prison for bigamy or bad checks. Peters behavior was exhausting. And in Sisman’s elegant hand, an extraordinary idiversion. The famous historian Hugh Trevor-Roper found it equally fascinating. Trevor-Roper was initially fooled by Peters. He then sorted things out and created a dossier on Peters, tracking him over the years.

Peters’ relationship with women was another puzzling aspect to the man. He was misogynistic and a strong advocate for traditional gender roles. He also was always after women, talking them up and looking for relationships. Peters was married many, many times. The church cast him out because of bigamy. What was Peters’ charm?

It’s a great question and one that motivated Sisman. I, too, thought of while reading The Professor and the Parson. What was it about this low-level confidence man that allowed him a lifetime of lies? And what it is about the church and college environment that enables this kind of actor? Are there more Peters out there, lurking in search pools and haunting our offices? It’s a very strange story, one that leaves you puzzled and entertained.

David Potash

Writerly Sagacity with Wit

Anne Lamott is one very wise, very funny writer. The 25th anniversary edition of her seminal book, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, is comedic, philosophical and a very entertaining read. That endorsement holds true for all manner of readers, whether you are a writer or simply someone who writes, a professional or a student or an aspiring author. Or simply someone who caught her TED talk and would like to hear more.

Lamott writes novels and non-fiction. Her voice is unmistakable, clear and carrying an honesty and immediacy that catches you by the lapels. She is in your face and in your head, and she does it without polemics or a loud voice. Instead, Lamott writes with the great strength that comes from awareness and openness with one’s vulnerability. At first blush you might think it self-deprecating, but much more is taking place. Her prose is extraordinarily human in the best sense of the word. She writes to learn, to know herself and others, and to make sense of the human condition.

Bird By Bird captures that well, giving outlines and observations to what can be an overwhelming task: writing. The title comes from a personal anecdote. Lamott’s brother was assigned a school report on birds, a topic he found too complex and confusing to capture on paper. He did not know how to begin. To address the problem he began with small steps, going bird by bird. The same approach works with writing, Lamott counsels. There is no finished book without many shitty first drafts. Her humor, warm and dark, gives the reader and aspiring writer the reassurance that their struggles may be special, but they are far from unique. Lamott teaches writing regularly and it’s apparent to see that she’d be an outstanding a coach and guide. She is one in this book

It’s easy to find a summary of Bird By Bird online. You can download powerpoints, watch youtube videos, and copy the notes. A documentary was made about her and the book. However, watching and shortcuts in so many ways might bypass a very important point. Underlying Lamott’s work is a recognition that writing is hard work. One of the things that makes it so valuable is the difficulty inherent in writing.. It requires engagement, imagination, and all the comes from working through frustration and despair. You just can’t get all that with notes. If you want to learn from Lamott and to become a better writer, invest the time and energy in the process. Give Bird By Bird time and your undivided attention. I’d wager that Anne Lamott is well worth it.

David Potash

The Magic of Wolpertings in Zamonia

Walter Moers’ indescribably epic epic, Rumo, is out of print in English. Hankering for a return to Zamonia and a refresher of Rumo’s miraculous adventures, I tracked down a second-hand copy. The tale was even better the third time through. More than a few things are special about this book. But no new copies? That’s a crime. Rumo is genius, unlike most things that we read. Why aren’t more captivated by this most unusual of books?

That is probably it, the most simple of explanations. Rumo is so unique, so difficult to characterize, that you might never pick it up should you chance across a copy. Without word of mouth, you might not be able to tell if it was for children or belong to science fiction or fantasy sections. It is chock full of unusual ink drawings. Rumo doesn’t fit into any recognizable box, and as such, may not be readily categorized. Nor easily marketed. But what a story! Please let me introduce you to a history that once read, will never leave you.

The book is massive and is actually two books, bound together with a common story and characters. It takes place in the land of Zamonia, a continent with a rich history of many different kinds creatures, drawn from the fervid imagination of Moers, and no humans. Most of the creatures speak, and all who speak have something interesting to say. Moers has set other novels in Zamonia. It’s an exciting place, steeped in danger: the perfect place to visit through a work of fiction, not a place you might want to live. A quiet and peaceful life in Zamonia is rare.

Our eponymous hero, Rumo, is a wolperting, a dog-like creature with horns and outstanding fighting abilities. Rumo, a quiet fellow who is uncomfortable in the limelight, turns out to be exceptionally good at fighting, even compared to other wolpertings. His frailties – and Moers’ characters, imagined beasts though they may be, consistently are complicated and ring, somehow, as true – make him all the more identifiable. You root for Rumo, who displays tremendous sangfroid in the face of extraordinary risks. It’s a violent tale, much as one would find in a Norse epic. Rumo’s adventures call for interaction with all manner of creatures, and as his and other’s stories unfold, we learn much of the history of Zamonia.

And that doesn’t at all capture the excitement on each page, the humor woven throughout, the wit and the drama. Helping us visualize it all, Moers’ drawings illustrate creatures and their traits. Among his many creative abilities, he’s a very successful cartoonist in Germany. Buy into the book, give it time and focus your imagination, and it becomes all the more memorable.

Book for young adults? Book for adults? Book for adults who think like kids? I have no idea. And it does not matter.

Rumo and His Miraculous Adventures brings to me a return to an extraordinary land where I can marvel at Moers’ genius and truly enjoy the ride.

Good luck finding a copy. It’s completely and totally worth it.

David Potash