JUST CURIOUS by Cullen Murphy


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 Atlantic Monthly managing editor Murphy gathers some three dozen of his essays, all but one written for the magazine and all displaying his considerable journalistic talents. As befits his varied rÇsumÇ (he is author of the text for the ``Prince Valiant'' comic strip and co-author of Rubbish! The Archaeology of Garbage, not reviewed), Murphy offers a kaleidoscopic variety of subject matter. Here are some thoughts about the practice of modern medical science, there a few comments about the art of government, here a consideration of the lore of eternal life, there some notions about the technology of sentencing criminals (which ``culminates in the computation of what might be thought of as Adjusted Gross Behavior. The sentencing table then reveals What You Owe''). Clearly the author draws much inspiration from his carefully eclectic reading of everything from the Commerce Business Daily Fund Raising Management, and How To Avoid, Prepare For, and Survive Being Taken Hostage (subject self-evident). But he's not always in the reading chair. Like Ernie Pyle or Joe Mitchell before him, Murphy often travels to garner his stylish aperáus. A lengthy piece on how a few of the Pope's men in far- flung posts are laboring to produce definitive editions of the works of St. Thomas is reported from Europe. Another observes the activities at a convention of ventriloquists--which is attended by a surprising number of fundamentalist Christians. An index (surely not a usual feature in a collection of essays) ranges from such entries as ``anthroponomastics, the study of human names'' to ``weddings, disjunction between participants and professionals at.'' Murphy's classy writing and eye for mundane curiosities keeps the art of the essay alive as a stimulant to the senses as well as the intellect.

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 1995
ISBN: 0-395-70099-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994


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