Cover image for Halls of fame : essays
Halls of fame : essays
D'Agata, John, 1974-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
St. Paul, Minn. : Graywolf Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
246 pages ; 22 cm
Round trip -- Martha Graham, audio description of -- Flat earth map: an essay -- Hall of fame: an essay about the ways in which we matter -- Notes toward the making of a whole human being... -- Collage history of art, by Henry Darger -- And there was evening and there was morning.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3554.A27 H35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In these refreshingly bold, creative, and incisive essays, John D'Agata journeys the endless corridors of American's myriad halls of fame and faithfully reports on what he finds there. In a voice all his own, he brilliantly maps his terrain in lists, collage, and ludic narratives. From Martha Graham to the Flat Earth Society, from the brightest light in Vegas to the "outsider artist" Henry Darger, D'Agata's obsessions are as American as they are contemporary.


Round Trip

Martha Graham, Audio Description Of

Flat Earth Map: An Essay

Hall of Fame: An Essay About the Ways in Which We Matter

Notes toward the making of a whole human being . . .

Collage History of Art, by Henry Darger

And There Was Evening and There Was Morning


Author Notes

John D'Agata was born in 1974 on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he holds MFAs in both nonfiction and poetry and is currently editor of lyric essays for Seneca Review. He lives on a beach in New Hampshire

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The essay is an endlessly malleable form, and D'Agata, a young writer with stellar credentials, stretches and tweaks it until it is more poetry than prose. Playful and bright, he riffs on the theme of fame with what sounds like irony but which is actually camouflage for a poignancy born of D'Agata's openness to all that he sees and eagerness to decode it. He alternates between quirky lists of wonders of the world, gentle personal musings, and accounts of cross-country jaunts to visit various curiosities, including obscure halls of fame (ventriloquists, drag races), a Nevada town obsessed with aliens, and such odd individuals as the president of the Flat Earth Society. Greek myths engage him deeply, and his cubist word-portrait of Martha Graham is fresh and surprisingly tender. D'Agata also ponders the bizarre creations of Chicago outsider artist Henry Darger and turns a visit to Las Vegas' Luxor Hotel into a meandering inquiry into our animal needs for light and sleep. D'Agata's poetic essays reveal a keen sensibility and promise even finer writings in the future. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

An exemplar of the literary movement toward linking the genres of poetry and the essay, D'Agata, a recent University of Iowa nonfiction and poetry MFA graduate, blends both to create an inviting, elliptical puzzle of American life. In seven pieces (which have appeared previously in such journals as Paris Review and Ploughshares), D'Agata examines disparate American subjects that include the revered (Hoover Dam), the unknown (outsider artist Henry Darger) and the merely spectacular (the beam of light at Las Vegas's Luxor Hotel). Most of the lyric essays are structured as journeys, in which the melancholy narrator searches for meaning through others, like the founder of the Flat Earth Society and the Luxor light guide. But he finds their offerings limited and unsatisfactory: they explain different ways the world works but provide little solace. Similarly, "an essay about the ways in which we matter" surveys America's approximately 3,000 Halls of Fame, including the Billiards Hall of Fame and the Shuffleboard Hall of Fame, revealing longing and family discord. Although D'Agata's Hoover Dam essay pays homage to Joan Didion's "At the Dam," and his "Collage History of Art, by Henry Darger" spurs thoughts of Joseph Mitchell's "Joe Gould's Secret," D'Agata eschews the structure of the traditional essay, in which meaning accrues from paragraphs of prose. Instead, he offers a work that can and should be reentered several times from various points to generate effect, whether unsettledness about the world or pleasure at D'Agata's artistry. Like poetry, all of what D'Agata offers takes a while to sink in. (Jan.) Forecast: Blurbed by writers as diverse as Annie Dillard and John Grisham, this book may gain an MFA-school following, in which case mounds of imitators will be leaving lots of white space in their essays attempting to achieve what D'Agata does seemingly without effort. An author reading tour and national advertising will help bring this title to the attention of readers who like to keep up with the cutting edge of literature. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

It comes as no surprise to learn that D'Agata holds MFAs in both poetry and nonfiction because it is clear that his interest is the intersection and intermingling of these forms. D'Agata is, however, equally interested in content. It's the odd, off-center aspects of American culture that spark his interest and allow his highly individual fusion of form and content. An essay on the art of Henry Darger, for example, uses verbal collage to express the folk artist's love of collage form. For the series of essays that give this book its title, D'Agata visited and recorded his offbeat impressions of 79 of the almost 3000 halls of fame in the United States, including Big Daddy's Drag Racing Hall of Fame in Ocala, FL, and the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Helendale, CA. Other essays concern light and Las Vegas, Martha Graham, and the Hoover DamDwith connective tissue supplied by the results of a Library of Congress title heading search for "wonders of." D'Agata's essays have appeared in Paris Review, Georgia Review, Gettysburg Review, and other literary magazines, and he is editor of lyric essays for Seneca Review. Recommended for literary collections.DMary Paumier Jones, Westminster P.L., CO (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Round Tripp. 3
Martha Graham, Audio Description Ofp. 25
Flat Earth Map: An Essayp. 43
Hall of Fame: An Essay About the Ways in Which We Matterp. 73
Notes toward the making of a whole human being...p. 151
Collage History of Art, by Henry Dargerp. 159
And There Was Evening and There Was Morningp. 197
Notesp. 239