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Reviews:
The Big Book
of the Dead

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Marion Winik, The Baltimore Book Of The Dead

Praise for The Baltimore Book of the Dead

"An affecting collection of brief, incisive portraits of departed figures both public and private."
People

"By turns reverent and wry, intimate and universal, these pieces capture the essence of friends, neighbors, a tiny baby, a young man lost to fentanyl, and even a few celebrities (Prince, David Bowie). ... This slim volume offers a welcome salve to all of us, and encouragement to honor the people we've lost who are forever with us."
–Dawn Raffel, Oprah.com

"Spending time with dead people might make you wonder: Do I want to take this trip? You do, when Winik is telling the stories, two-page hits that read like flash nonfiction, highlight reels of what these people have meant to her, and sometimes to American culture, over the past 60 years ... Winik's voice is strong and clear, as if she has been called to sing these paeans and she will do it, she’s honored to do it, but she’s going to do it her way, with elation and sadness ... Death is always in season, and it takes someone of Winik’s good humor and willingness to say, in essence, see that big door there? The one we are all going to walk through? Let’s just take a little look now, and know you will be remembered, that you are loved."
–Nancy Rommelman, Newsday

"Feast on Marion Winik's jewelbox of a book filled with gold nuggets of prose and a fevered passion for life even though much is an homage to death itself. Every sentence is a carefully considered slam dunk ... Breathless, heartbreaking, invigorating."
Literary Hub

"With the same candid and humorous writing style she fine-tuned through her years as an All Things Considered commentator, Winik memorializes the departed in short essays that evoke a tender sense of connection in readers."
–Lauren LaRocca, Baltimore Magazine

"Every so often I stumble across books where my first reaction is regret. How have I never heard of this writer? My second reaction is a hunger to read all he or she has written. This does not happen often enough so, please know I do not toss this sort of praise lightly. Marion Winik is one of the most elegant, evocative and incisive writers I have encountered ... Her gift is using the fewest words to capture their spirits, and though as the title broadcasts, this is a book about the dead, it is a glorious account of living."
–Jacqeline Cutler, Newark Star-Ledger

"Empathy figures in Marion Winik's The Baltimore Book of the Dead, along with her sharp eye and wicked wit. This sequel to The Glen Rock Book of the Dead has more achingly beautiful and succinct obituaries of the people (and a few pets) from Winik's wide, idiosyncratic circle of family, friends, colleagues, lovers, and enemies. This superfast read will spur rereading and the terrible wish that more people in Winik's circle would expire just so she could memorialize them."
Library Journal, an Editors' Pick for Fall

"In writing about these dozens of deaths, the author is writing about life in general, how quickly it can change and how long a memory can persist, and her life in particular, "how big ideas about art and revolution were so easily infected with the stupid romance of self-destruction." ...  Insightful pieces with a cumulative impact."
Kirkus

"Captivating... Winik writes with a delightfully light and nuanced hand." 
Publishers Weekly, full review

"Marion Winik's writing is always a wild and true marvel and never more so than in her latest work, The Baltimore Book of the Dead. With riveting compassion, she looks at all the love and the pain and the detritus that accumulates in the corners of all of our lives and pieces together something sad and lovely and new out of it."
–Bill Clegg, author of Did You Ever Have a Family and Ninety Days

"You’ll want to read The Baltimore Book of the Dead as slowly as possible because every observation is a marvel, every sentence a heartbreak or a revelation of joy. This book is both brief and miraculous, and it will be finished before you’re ready to let it go. Like life."
–Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth

"This slim, deeply moving book reminds us of the beauty and pain and complexity in every life, no matter how obscure. Marion Winik’s prose is deceptively rich, suffused with quiet emotion and tender humor. She teaches us how to remember."
–Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Mrs. Fletcher

"The Baltimore Book of the Dead is a book about the living, a generous, loving celebration of the sometimes complex, sometimes sticky ties that bind people together. In this series of funny, poignant, and beautifully written portraits, Winik’s voice is so warmly intimate and frank and badass, I felt, on finishing this memoir, that they were all as lucky to know her as she was to know them."
–Kate Christensen, author of Blue Plate Special and The Last Cruise

"Marion Winik is such an excellent writer that you will want to gobble up The Baltimore Book of the Dead, but you won’t. After each chapter you will pause, and take a  breath. You will have experienced the life and death of a stranger made friend, made familiar, through Winik’s compassionate genius. Savor every word."
–Abigail Thomas, author of Safekeeping and What Comes Next and How to Like It

Praise for The Glen Rock Book of the Dead

"Spoon River Anthology as told by a female Jack Kerouac."
This Week's Book

"... Although she's known many people who died young, in sad or unsavory ways, the book is uplifting, funny and deep. This is partly because Winik resists the temptation to be overly reverent or poetic, though there are plenty of graceful passages. Her fascinating, tiny tributes tell the bare-assed truth about relationships while coming together to create a portrait of Winik's own imperfect, love-filled life."
–Marcia Menter, More; Ten Best Books of 2008

"Winik offers memoir, prose and warmth – expressed with precise evocative details."
–Diane Scharper, Baltimore Sun

"The Glen Rock Book of the Dead is a quiet tour de force from former Austinite Marion Winik."
–Mike Shea, Texas Monthly; read full review

"I only hope that Winik will continue to write, and share her insightful stories with the world. If that requires her to use a sixth sense, talk to dead people, reminisce old times, I won't be one to judge."
–Jess Krout, Hanover Evening Sun

"Few among us, when we die, will be lucky enough to be eulogized as intriguingly as the individuals in Marion Winik's The Glen Rock Book of the Dead. The slender and elegantly illustrated volume chronicles the stories of some 50 individuals the author once knew, compressing their lives and personal significance into brief, two-page essays. The eighth book from this critically acclaimed writer and poet is a sort of modern-day version of Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology—the almost century-old classic that told the tale of a town in the voices of its deceased."
–Susan Carpenter, the L.A. Times; read full review

"The truth, so tragic and so exhilarating, is the gift Marion Winik offers up with honesty and compassion in this incomparable book."
–Harvey Freedenberg, Harrisburg Patriot-News's Sunday magazine. read full review (PDF)

"If you have read First Comes Love—Winik's memoir about her marriage to a gay man and his death from AIDS—you may imagine what you are in for: equal parts laceration and exhilaration, 100% brilliance. To say there has never been a book like this doesn't begin to get at my admiration for what Winik does here—I'm dazzled by the highwire act of her writing, her willingness to go deep and then go deeper, and her immense wisdom about life. ...If you have the guts to read this book—easily the most powerful document I've read in years—you will almost surely make your own list of the lost. You can't not. The Glen Rock Book of the Dead is that haunting, that beautiful, that necessary."
–Jesse Kornbluth, for HeadButler.com; read full review

"Much of literature is elegiac in nature. Much of Winik's propulsive, come-clean writing has been about coping with loss. So it makes sense that her newest essay collection comprises tributes to her dead. Glen Rock is the quiet place she lives; Spoon River Anthology was her template. Bold and funny, Winik is the queen of pithiness and punch, and the micro-lives she has created here are far more difficult to forge than their brevity and blithe tone might suggest. Each family member, friend, lover, or neighbor is identified by occupation, temperament, obsession, or curse, such as The Art Star, The Junkie, The Mah Jongg Player, The Bad Influence. And each portrait is a window onto some aspect of Winik’s life, one that has been pitted and torn by deaths accidental, suicidal, and simply tragic, including many due to AIDS. It is a fine and noble act to remember the dead as Winik has with candor, bemusement, and sorrow, and her gracefully crafted miniatures will inspire others to summon memories of their own lost ones."
–Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Alongside the numerous deaths from AIDS and the poignant lament that there are no gay couples of Winik's generation, there is a house ravaged by Katrina, a soldier lost in Iraq, the World Trade Center, Winik imbuing each departed with a dignity and grace everyone deserves in death but might not have had in life. ...Death comes, they say, like a thief in the night. It comes for all of us; if we're lucky, there is a Marion Winik in our lives to document who we were and what we meant as we cool our heels in the VIP lounge of the afterlife. We all deserve it, and, as evidenced by this book, no one knows that more keenly than Marion Winik."
–Melanie Haupt, Austin Chronicle; read full review

"Oh, I have not been so captivated by a book in a long, long time!! I read it cover to cover without pause; and laughed and cried and revisited my own storehouse of ghosts with increasing tenderness. In chapters limited to two to six paragraphs each, Winik lauds the dead with whom she connected in life. These aren't chapters as one is accustomed to; not even essays, in that they are so spare. In recommending this book to everyone I bump into (my mother, the grocer, joggers who pass me on the city bridges!), I keep referring to the chapters as mini portraits, flamboyantly colored edges of a burned or shredded masterpiece that hint at the majesty we'll never again see fully. How Winik crammed such wisdom into so few words, I do not know. As an author myself, this work earns the highest and most enviable praise I can summon: How I wish I had written this brilliant little book myself!"
–Elena Urbani, author of When I Was Elena

"I read this book in one sitting. It's so beautiful, sad, interesting, funny, and true that I simply could not put it down. This is one cool book. Each chapter is about a dead person the author knew. The chapters are short and intense and riveting and beautifully written. Winik has many gifts as a writer, but one I appreciate the most is her ability to write about the hardest, darkest subjects with a light, knowing hand. Situations are bleak, but life is not. Life is hard and hilarious and good and complex and often, entirely inexplicable. Winik shows us that in this book. I love The Glen Rock Book of the Dead. I think you will too."
–Cheryl Strayed, Best Books of 2009

"She had graduated from the same university as I, though ten or so years earlier, and returned to campus to read from her memoir at the bookstore where I oversaw events. Twenty-plus years later, I am reviewing titles to be released this fall and see Marion Winik has a new book due out from Counterpoint in October, The Baltimore Book of the Dead. Apparently this new book is a follow-up to her book from 2010, The Glen Rock Book of the Dead (Counterpoint). Odd, I think, I don’t recall this earlier book at all. I am intrigued by the premise of both books, collections of brief biographies of people in Winik’s life who have died, and order in a copy of the early collection to read now. A slim, small-trimmed paperback that actually fits in my back pocket arrives, and I take it on a holiday to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, where I read it on a deck surrounded entirely by trees, not a view to speak of, only trees and the sun cutting through the cool morning air. I read the collection in one sitting, and when I finish, I immediately put pen to paper and write a letter to a dear friend, telling her how much I loved this book and how much I thought of her, or, rather, thought of our friendship, our conversations filled with the glory and pain and wonder and humor and poignancy of life and our world. The Glen Rock Book of the Dead is a special book: Marion Winik offers the reader a celebration of life and death that packs far more power than expected from such a slender read."
–Toby, staff recommendations section of the newsletter of the Three Lives bookstore

 

 

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