"The world was not waiting for a telephone," begins Eula Biss in her striking essay "Time and Distance Overcome." I started her new book, Notes from No Man's Land (Graywolf Press 2009), last night and I cannot put it down--mostly because I keep rereading this eight-page essay. I've been trying to figure it out. I mean, how did one slim essay about telephone poles make me gasp? Maybe it's her deft weaving of tidbits like, "Mark Twain was among the first Americans to own a telephone" (how fitting is that?) with an account of the obscure "War on Telephones." Or maybe it's how she maneuvers the quotidian of telephone poles into a brutal, illuminating discussion about lynching. Or maybe it's how she is not afraid to talk straight--her writing looks you dead in the eye and speaks--but that she does so with an empathy so tangible, a hope so strong, that you arrive at the end sure that you've read something honest and sad and necessary. These are feats to be admired over and over again.
-Amy Lee Scott, assistant editor