These small essays are not unlike Dutch paintings of the sixteenth century. They are clear and precisely rendered, and are either thematically domestic scenes or pedestrian in their observations of the ordinary. There is a delirious joy in Soto's writings, and heartbreak. This collection features his much-lauded essays "The Jacket" and "Like Mexicans," along with new essays such as "Childhood Worries, or Why I Became a Writer," "Getting It Done," and the title essay in which Soto fashions himself to be Fresno's own Knut Hamsun, the Norwegian writer of the 1920s who lived on nothing more than his five senses.
Poet and critic Christopher Buckley said of his poetry, "[Soto has] mastered his form, has found his voice, and has the life experiences to provide meaningful content." He could have been speaking of his prose as well. Soto is at home with the essay; he is able to paint moments that would otherwise seem dull and not worthy of comment. He picks up hitchhikers, sorts through the mystery of finding a wife, and pulls together his wits to solve the hunger of stray dogs. He is tender and outrageous; he is reflective on worldly matters and cagey with his family and friends. In all, his dazzling effects of language will keep the reader continually surprised.These portraits are set in his hometown, Fresno, and in his current residence, the San Francisco Bay area. They therefore mark his time and place, but honor the instincts of the master Knut Hamsun, who walked around his town, a spectacle of wonder.
This volume includes forty-eight pieces: all of the personal narratives formerly collected in Small Faces, the best of Lesser Evils—both volumes long out-of-print—as well as five new essays.