For readers who love creative nonfiction (or literary journalism or whatever designation suits you), if you haven’t read any work by Michael Paterniti, take note. The longtime GQ and New York Times Magazine contributor and author returns today with a collection of essays, Love and Other Ways of Dying, which Kirkus called, in a starred review, “real-world storytelling of the highest order.”
It’s an apt description for a writer who explores the human spirit with humor, empathy, and a heightened awareness of evocative, telling details. Paterniti’s previous book, The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese (2013), was one of my favorite books of the year. Though nominally focused on the author’s obsession with a particularly “sublime” cheese from the Castile region of Spain, the layered narrati ve covers much more ground than that—it encompasses memoir, travel, social sciences, murder mystery, and beyond. In a starred review, we noted that Paterniti “gracefully unravels how tradition, culture and a sense of place affect the human heart, while simultaneously wrestling with the joys and boundaries of storytelling and journalism.”
Love and Other Ways of Dying is packed with plenty of examples of what his fans have come to expect: potently rendered, consistently zesty tales of the author’s adventures in storytelling, including his account of carrying Einstein’s brain across the country, which became his first book, Driving Mr. Albert; a celebration of the wizardly Spanish chef Ferran Adrià; a visit with a Ukrainian “giant” who is more than 8 feet tall; and a moving profile of a Chinese man who has stopped hundreds of people from committing suicide from a bridge over the Yangtze River.
The collection is a fitting entrée to a writer who will appeal to all readers of creative nonfiction, especially that of John Jeremiah Sullivan, Tom Bissell, Susan Orlean, Geoff Dyer, and others of their ilk.—E.L.