Reviews of Ultrasonic: essays
From the Los Angeles Review of Books:
From American Book Review:
From Essay Daily:
From Brevity Magazine:
Praise for Ultrasonic:
Each beautifully crafted essay in Steven Church’s Ultrasonic invites the reader into an intriguing new world. From Elvis playing racquetball to the drumming heartbeat of an infant to prehistoric bottom feeders, Church’s endless curiosity and wildly intelligent prose pierce the literary bull’s-eye, spot on.
-Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire
Steven Church has spent the past decade quietly becoming one of our best essayists, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the book containing these deeply resonant essays. By turns humorous, reflective, curious, mischievous, and profound, Ultrasonic gives booming confirmation: Church’s is a voice we should all listen to.
- Patrick Madden, author of Quotidiana
Like Elvis Presley’s legendarily fierce final match on the Graceland racquetball court, these essays ricochet, they zing, they demand our attention. Steven Church’s spinning insights often come with lightning quickness—surprise attacks buried in graceful delivery-- but his approach is so welcoming I found myself rising back to my feet for return service at every paragraph. Readers who fancy a bout of lively and uncompromising nonfiction will find a worthy opponent in these nimble inquiries about sound, tricks of memory, limitations of the body, and the varied perils of American manhood.
- Elena Passarello, author of Let Me Clear My Throat
"Steven Church writes with the virtuosic intelligence and digressive curiosity of Montaigne, but beneath the desk his feet are planted firmly on a double bass kick drum. These essays rumble and crack with percussive thunder; they thrum with music and rhythm; like the best heavy metal or rap, they kickstart the heart muscle. With equal parts tenderness and rage, Church tunnels through our noise-laden culture to locate a clear signal: it's empathy—for our children, our neighbors, our fellow humans. I can't think of another collection that has moved me so deeply on both sensory and emotional levels. Ultrasonic is a tale told by a literary mastermind, full of sound and fury, signifying everything."
- Justin Hocking, author of The Great Floodgates to the Wonderworld
In Ultrasonic, Steven Church’s brilliant and disarming new linked essay collection, the earth and the roads we lay across it—the deep shafts we’re compelled to bore into it—become the stand-ins for our fragile bodies. These essays, like our highways and mines, act as both “action and record,” treasure map and a lattice of scars. These essays are the chalk outlines of the blind, as they stumble through the dark rooms of our world, proving, to the rest of us, that those holy things beating—both within and without us—are far more radiant, heartbreaking, and, ultimately, more exhilarating than we originally conceived. This book strings crust to core, the corporeal to the terrestrial. The plumb lines have never been so interesting.
Essay after essay, Church tests the parameters of the joys and tragedies of his life and ours. The collection begins as a meditation on the ways in which (and implications thereof) we use sound to draw such chalk outlines around the things we can see only incompletely, and then becomes so much more than that—one of the oddest and loveliest meditations on parenthood I’ve ever read. Indeed, the collection gathers such electricity as it progresses and doubles-back, progresses and doubles back, becoming the heritable flashlight that we shine into the mineshaft dark of existence. As a reader, I never wanted the reach of its beam to end.
If Montaigne were a mad cartographer driven to find the true unnamable intersection of earth and human body (because feet-to-crust, Church clearly knows, is too easy, too cursory), with a heart the size of the sun, he would have looked something like Steven Church. These essays render the ways in which the tools and devices we build in order to communicate with the stuff of our bodies collide with our interrogations of the resulting (and bemusing) dialogue. Church’s essays strive to lend shape to this confounding dialogue, to give it a name, a place on the wonderful, baffling maps of our huge and tiny lives.
These essays further prove that the previously defined missions of these tools have been mistranslations. As such, Ultrasonic: Soundings also serves as a lapidary retranslation of the secret language whispered between our insides and our outsides, the stethoscope and the heart, the highway and the soft curves that mark the borders of our bodies. Again and again, Church lowers his essayistic microphone into the mineshafts of human experience and emerges with a new Esperanto, the long echoes of which are the sounds that allow us, finally, to hear ourselves.
I love this book beyond reason, and I love it beyond whatever reason’s opposite is too.
-Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer
Steven's Other Books:
Steven's essays can also be found in some recent and forthcoming anthologies:
Blurring the Boundaries: Explorations to the Fringes of Nonfiction, Ed. by B.J. Hollars, University of Nebraska Press
True Crime, Ed. by Lee Gutkind, InFact Books
After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover The Essays, Ed. by Patrick Madden and David Lazar, from the University of Georgia Press, 2015.
Making Essays, Ed. by Jen Hirt and Erin Murphy, SUNY Press, 2015
Oh, Baby!, Ed. by Lee Gutkind, InFact Books, 2015