Impossible Owls

Impossible Owls

‘Hilarious, nimble and thoroughly illuminating’ Colson Whitehead, author of The Underground Railway

From its opening journey into remote Alaska for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, a quest that culminates on the frozen sea between the United States and Russia, Brian Phillips’s Impossible Owls leads us on a kaleidoscopic exploration of contemporary reality. He takes us to a sumo tournament in Japan, where he becomes obsessed with the suicide of a famous writer; to the jungle in India, where he considers the intertwined histories of conservation movements and man-eating tigers; to the studio of a great Russian animator; to a royal tour of the Yukon Teritory with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; and into the weird heart of America, where he visits the gates of Area 51.

Exhilarating, moving and insightful, this remarkable debut visits borders both real and imagined, and asks what it means, in our age, to travel to the end of the map.
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Genre: Literature & Literary Studies / Prose: Non-fiction / Literary Essays

On Sale: 2nd October 2018

Price: £16.99

ISBN-13: 9781474607858


'A rich mix of derring-do, insightful analysis and creative non-fiction . . . "Once and Future Queen", a meditation on royalty in the twenty-first century, is breathtakingly beautiful . . . Phillips is funny, sharp, obsessive and very readable'
i </i>newspaper<i>
'Phillips is a long-form journalist of the old school, a deep research artist, and a killer stylist . . . Impossible Owls is an absorbing and totally distinctive exploration of wildly disparate corners of our world'
Taylor Antrim, Executive Editor, Vogue </i>(US)<i>
'Impossible Owls takes you deep into worlds both far-flung and familiar - tiger trails, tiny towns of the Yukon, Route 66, a Walmart parking lot. Brian Phillips riffs and reports with abiding curiosity and incisive humour. A fantastic, transporting read'
Jessica Hopper, author of <i>The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic</i>
'I most love Impossible Owls for how it sends me returning to the central question that I enjoy most in any work I find myself chasing after: what do we, as writers, owe a single idea, but to stretch it out beyond whatever our imaginations thought possible? I love that this is a book of highways and historical touchstones and large geographic shifts. But I also love that at the heart of those bigger things, there is the gentle touch of Brian Phillips underneath it all, creating a landscape for a reader to see not his work, but to better see themselves'
Hanif Abdurraqib, author of <i>They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us</i>
'Phillips takes readers down unexpected paths that are as world-expanding as they are entertaining'
Time </i>magazine</i>
'Brian Phillips's essays are out of this world: big-hearted, exhaustive, unrelentingly curious, and goddamned fun'
The Millions
'Brian Phillips's Impossible Owls takes the American essay in new direction - these narratives are simultaneously stories of questing and strandedness. Characters and landscapes become knowable and disorienting. Tigers, royals, mysterious Russian artists and foreign countries are subjects of Phillips's close, careful journalism, as well as representatives of all the glittering, un-graspable things that lie outside us. Witty, pensive, sometimes whimsical, always truthful, Impossible Owls is testament to Phillips's gift for enchantment, and his genius for knowing exactly where our alienation from the world meets our sympathy for it'
Supriya Nair
'There is a section in Impossible Owls where Brian Phillips writes about tigers, and he notes that what's most astonishing about the animal is not its size or power or beauty, but its capacity to disappear. This is an excellent description of a tiger, but also an excellent description of how Phillips writes. These are big, powerful, beautiful essays - but no matter how personal the content, he just seems to disappear into the paragraphs'
Chuck Klosterman, author of <i>But What if We’re Wrong?</i> and <i>Eating the Dinosaur</i>
'Again and again, Impossible Owls proves that Brian Phillips is a cultural codebreaker of the highest order, unlocking the hidden systems of our mad world. Hilarious, nimble and thoroughly illuminating'
Colson Whitehead, author of <i>The Underground Railroad</i>
'The journeys that make up Impossible Owls lead us to some remarkable, unpredictable places, from the Alaskan wilderness to a supermarket parking lot in southern Japan, from an old movie palace in Moscow to the underground histories of northern Oklahoma. But these far-flung tales all share the same inspirational spark: Brian Phillips's soulful, intrepid spirit, and his masterful ability at turning everyday curiosities into epic quests that you can't stop reading'
Hua Hsu, staff writer at <i>The New Yorker</i>
'Brian Phillips has a wonderful way of taking readers to entirely unfamiliar places in nature (the Yukon) and in culture (sumo wrestling), and translating those experiences into something that feels visceral . . . get lost in this captivating essay collection, which brings to life both the extraordinary and the mundane'
'Brian Phillips has a way of making you care about the things he cares about in the way he cares about them, which is passionately, almost obsessively . . . impeccably researched . . . invigorating and muscular; the perspective is enthusiastic and vital; the book is a must-get'