American Rococo: Essays on the Edge

American Rococo book cover

Reminds one of an etching that has been precisely scribed to create a sharp effect.” — Michael Collins, author of St George and the Dragons: The Making of English Identity

Imagine a conversation over thirteen evenings with a perceptive and erudite companion.” — James Lande, author of Yang Shen: The God from the West

Food for thought, elegantly prepared.” — Kirkus Reviews

Goodreads reviews:

“Besides waxing on about subjects that we are already familiar with and have given thought to, the mark of a great essay collection is to introduce foreign concepts and ideas. This essay collection did a very good job at that.”

“If you’re a fan of interesting essays this would be a great book.”

American Rococo…is a wonderful collection of insightful essays on a variety of topics which touch unseen and unheard aspects.”

“It will also challenge your notions of freedom and independence. I disagreed with nearly everything Isham had to say, but I had a great time doing so.”

“Bold in places, brusque at times and bewildering in the remaining, Mr. Cook’s collection of essays represent a sheer maze the likes of which even Lewis Carroll would have found it challenging to conceptualize.”

“From the virtually preposterous to the really insightful, the wish to learn in an engaging way is partially fulfilled by these round-edged essays.”

“Sparking curiosity for unknown topics and a rethink of topics I was familiar with….Cook presents stark reality while exposing the hidden beauty and complexity of things we don’t really give a second thought.”

“An eclectic and wide-ranging collection….has a depth of knowledge and plenty to challenge the reader.”

“You might need a Swedish massage after reading but in a good way….Take the time to read this rollercoaster or you might miss the whole point.”

Amazon reviews:

“There are three things that one looks for in an essayist: good writing, deep thinking and range….American novelist and essayist Isham Cook scores quite well in all three respects.”

“The essays are all extremely well written and present a logical train of thought, and although I did find some of his conclusions and solutions a little extreme, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the collection.”

Book description:

What do seashells, obesity, graffiti, and the American ghetto have in common? Nude hot springs and the Japanese theater? Atheists and family-values conservatives? Why do atheists go on religious pilgrimages? How have schools infantilized our understanding of Shakespeare, and the textbook industry conspired to turn our language’s history into agitprop? What is the single most dangerous sexual idea that even the liberated can’t handle?

Ranging across centuries and continents, Isham Cook’s far-flung essays, whether discoursing on the most radical or homespun of topics, are guided by the notion of the “edge.” The edge represents the limits of conventional understanding, the zone beyond stereotypes and groupthink; it is​ where received ideas are recast in fresh and striking ways.

Table of Contents:

1   American Rococo

2   Theatrics of Japanese Noh, Kabuki, and the Mixed-bathing Onsen

3   Philip Glass and Tan Dun

4   John Dowland and the Lost English Consort School of Chamber Music

5   A Shakespeare Sex-and-Violence Starter Kit

6   Multiply, Cascade, Explode: A Theory of Literary Fiction

7   Anglish and English: Why Our Language Is 750 and Not 1,500 Years Old

8   From Van Gogh to the Camino de Santiago: Symbolic Travel and the Modern Pilgrim

9   Why Airbnb Ain’t My Cup of Tea

10 My Problem With the Atheists (It’s Not What You Think)

11 Advanced Love

12 The Breast Etiquette Project

13 An American Talisman



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