Read The World is on Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of the Apocalypse by Joni Tevis Online


Marked by the end-times sermons of her Southern youth, Joni Tevis has spent her life both haunted by and drawn to visions of apocalypse: Nuclear fallout, economic collapse, personal tragedy. This collection follows the pilgrimage she undertook to put her childhood dread to rest. Standing at Buddy Holly’s memorial in the middle of a farmer’s field recalls Doom Town—the modeMarked by the end-times sermons of her Southern youth, Joni Tevis has spent her life both haunted by and drawn to visions of apocalypse: Nuclear fallout, economic collapse, personal tragedy. This collection follows the pilgrimage she undertook to put her childhood dread to rest. Standing at Buddy Holly’s memorial in the middle of a farmer’s field recalls Doom Town—the model American suburb built in the Nevada desert to measure the devastation of a nuclear bomb. Wandering the abandoned shop floors of shuttered factories in her hometown conjures landscapes submerged by flooding. And her visceral experience of remote Alaskan wilderness merges into a meditation on the sublime instinctual joy, as well as the unutterable sorrow, that can result from a woman carrying a child in her body.Tevis builds these essays with the raw materials of our world—nails and beams, dirt and stone, bones and blood—and fills them with the essence of our popular culture: Liberace’s trills, Freddy Mercury’s pleas, and Buddy Holly’s hypnotic gaze. What results is a whole empowered by the richness and deep interconnection of its parts: In courageously facing up to the worst that may befall us, she has created a living testament to the promise and necessity of death and rebirth....

Title : The World is on Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of the Apocalypse
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781571313478
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The World is on Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of the Apocalypse Reviews

  • karen
    2019-03-13 02:55

    this is a brilliant book. brilliant as in intelligent, sure, but also brilliant like dazzling and radiant and luminous. incanfreakingdescent. it's a firecracker of a book. but it's also very earthy, like rich loam. and if that sounds like praise so antithetical that it cancels itself out, you gotta read this. this book is made up entirely of contrasts, of juxtapositions, of melding disparate themes into surprising comparisons with seamless craftsmanship. trying to review this has turned me into an adjective factory, and i apologize, but i'm just so wowed by this book. this is writing.and reviewing it is near-impossible. i feel like i need flowcharts and venn diagrams and visual aids to even begin. i have never read anything like it before, and it may be the first of its kind - a collection of essays in the shape of some kind of slipstream/microhistory mashup where one thing is intensely examined but then the focus of the essay broadens, it pans back and becomes more porous allowing unexpected elements to flow in and the essay becomes about two things, three things, many things, all equally exhaustively examined and poetically written coming together in this softserve swirl of perfection.i'm not a big essay-reader. but the subtitle of this book grabbed me: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse. i got an early arc that didn't have much information on it, and i skimmed what information there was, and for some reason, my brain told me that this was a sort of social anthropology book about her traveling the country, archiving regional folklore and music pertaining to the apocalypse. which is nowhere near what it is, but that is still a book i would like to read. here, she is playing with the word "apocalypse," using both its everyday definition and its more linguistically precise, but less frequently used definition of "uncovering" or "unveiling." the capital-a apocalypse is present, underlying the essays with a thematic recurrence of destruction or loss, but this is a book concerned with smaller-scale devastation, written by a woman with a poet's delicate touch. so even though it wasn't what i thought it was, it blew me away. it's creative, narrative nonfiction in which personal stories are woven into stories of american history, where the life of buddy holly is wrapped around a story of atom bomb test sites in nevada told through a viewmaster. and, yes, doom town is included, which is one of the creepiest things this country has ever done.part of the great fun of this book is the discovery - what will find its way into each story?? for example - i never thought i would read an essay in which a woman's struggles with infertility would be intertwined with the life of freddie mercury. i love freddie mercury more than many things, but this:and "pregnancy" never occupied the same space in my brain. but it's perfect once she establishes context, and she manages to make me want to listen, closely, to a queen song i've never even likedi'm more of a teo torriatte girl, myself (always been a sucker for the minor key) she writes with such authority on so many different subjects: glassblowing, marbles, defunct mills, hula hoops, the salton sea, and intersperses it with the personal: pregnancy, family trips, her own fear and unease until it unfolds into a giant human tapestry of atonement and life and loss and joy and sorrow. phoar.i did not realize it until i got to the second epigraph, but she grabbed the title of this collection from one of the best books ever, Winesburg, Ohio:If a thing is iron, then what? It rusts, you see. That's fire, too. The world is on fire. Start your pieces in the paper that way. Just say in big letters, "The World Is On Fire." That will make 'em look up.which is just of this book remind me of Bubble in its moody tone, which is my very favorite soderbergh movie. since he also made a movie about liberace, who features in this collection, and since he is a genius, i would love to see him figure out a way to translate this book visually. you know, in his spare time, when he's usually doing shit like i give it a 4.5 stars, missing the five-star mark only because i was so absorbed that i couldn't stop reading, and at the end i felt too… full. i was crammed with images and information and atmosphere that it was just a little uncomfortable. i should probably have savored instead of gorged - it's a very filling book. her prose very occasionally strays into purple territory, but that's not a dealbreaker for me, and overall it is such a phenomenal reading experience, even the most cranky among you will be able to forgive her these occasional lapses. so trust me - even if you are not an essay person, i think you will still dig this book.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-03-08 04:18

    The worst thing about reading any essay by Joni Tevis is that I find myself going down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of additional reading, listening, and even watching. Does Buddy Holly really smolder? (how did I miss it?) Where is St. George, Utah and is it near where my friends live? (thankfully no) Have I heard Led Zeppelin's version of that song? (oh yeah, that one!)Tevis winds together the most disparate things, but they make perfect sense after reading what she's written about them. Fertility treatments and Freddie Mercury. Apocalypse caves and baby girls. She writes about my area of the world in a way that makes me feel like I've never truly seen it, at least not the way she has. Within these explorations of places and histories are personal connections and stories. It would be impossible not to be moved.

  • Suzanne
    2019-02-23 02:07

    The word “apocalypse,” Joni Tevis tells us in a couple of these essays, means “unveiling,” and what she does in each of these extraordinary pieces is unveil a multitude of unexpected connections, weaving together topics as diverse as nuclear test sites, Buddy Holly’s death, and John Wayne making The Searchers (Damn Cold in February). This one haunted me. In another, Somebody to Love, a detailed analysis of the structure and effects of the Queen song and a short account of Freddy Mercury’s life, personality and death somehow reflect her immersion in fertility tests and procedures when she’s trying to get pregnant with her second child. The connections between topics is emotional and ethereal, as they often are in poetry, rather than logical and linear. But they’re there, and the spider web effect of her taking a strand from this, attaching it to a strand of that, and then over to another subject entirely, makes a shimmering fabric of new meaning. Tevis creates a way of thinking about our personal and collective lives that I found completely original and which feels like the birthing of new neural pathways, but imbued with the logic of dreams: associative, circuitous, ephemeral. p. 64 In Beautiful Beyond Belief, she says: How do we live with this new knowledge of how the Earth will end? Set it aside. Keep on working. Said journalist William Laurence, witnessing Nagasaki – of which Trinity had been a test – “we removed our glasses after the first flash but the light still lingered, a bluish-green light that illuminated the entire sky . . . As the first mushroom floated off into the blue it changed its shape into a flowerlike form, its giant petals curving downward, creamy-white outside, rose-colored inside.” It’s an artist’s description, filled with color and comparison, and yet this is light unwholesome, strong-armed into something never before seen. If Fairyland Caverns is a memento mori, it is unlike the Renaissance ones, where sculpted skeletons reach from caskets to claw the air. Here there are no bones – vaporized instantly – just the glowing circle of Baa Baa Blacksheep’s Wool, hanging in the darkness like an afterimage. What made me think of Trinity as I walked through Fairyland? Light spoken in a new tongue; a cave peopled by children with glowing faces. But the truth is you find what you look for. Maybe not the exact specimen, but once the scales fall from your eyes you must see the world strange and dark. Other essays juxtapose more Nevada test site stories, the marketing of the tests as tourist attraction, performance and propaganda, and Liberace (Something Like the Fire). The history of a South Carolina textile mill and its demise is joined to Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” (written by a woman known as Memphis Millie in 1927, whose “grave went unmarked for better than twenty years until Bonnie Raitt bought a stone for it.”) Tevis writes in the first person, second person and the imperative tone. In spite of the nine pages of source material listed in the Notes and Acknowledgement section detailing her trips, interviews, and reference materials, this is not journalism; she speculates, supposes and imagines, coming to conclusions that are nothing more than possibilities and conjectures, but possibilities that you have to consider and then to which you must add your own riffs of meaning. She writes often of the shutting down and abandonment of factories that were the lifeblood of towns (textile mills, glass factories, marble factories, brick factories). By exploring the ruins and remembering their history, she makes points about the dignity of work, the pride of people in an honest day’s labor, the community built within a workplace, and what happens when that’s lost; the importance and significance of the things that are made in the factories, the transcendent importance of the quotidian, and the meaning of home. She writes of trekking through the Alaskan wilderness with just her husband and a guide, a trip where her daughter was conceived, and of the birth, one of the more amazing description of childbirth I have ever read (What the Body Knows); and in The World is on Fire: Cave of the Apocalypse, of the Cave of Patmos, the Book of Revelations and her fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone upbringing. She also covers dioramas, a demolition derby, jukeboxes, abandoned schoolhouses, itinerant scissor-sharpeners, and the Salton Sea. It’s all pretty great, and some of it is breath-taking. It's hard to do justice to a book like this, so I feel that I’m doing a fairly terrible job of telling you how devastatingly wonderful this is. In spite of the inadequacy of this review, I hope you’ll read the book. Anyway, I made you a playlist: Damn Cold in February“You Dropped the Bomb on me” Buddy Holly clip Arthur Murray “Peggy Sue” to Love Queen’s Performance Montreal November 1981 Like the Fire Liberace Playing Moonlight Sonata and How Insensitive Warp and Weft Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” Lone Justice “Dixie Storms” REM “It’s the End of the World As We Know It”

  • Janet
    2019-02-24 22:15

    I'm having trouble composing a review for this book, because its scope is at once so vast and so specific. Confused by that? Read just a few pages of any essay in the book--go ahead, just pick a random page and go--and you'll see what I mean. How can I tell you about a book that made me want to embrace all of the outdoors at once while simultaneously fueling this intense need blast a certain Queen song played at full volume? How can I describe a collection of essays so lyrical they sometimes make me feel like I'm in the middle of some great, big, beautiful poem? At the center of each essay is this fiercely brilliant, introspective, sensitive, and eye-opening writer who repeatedly had me thinking about everyday things in ways I never had before. This was my introduction to Joni Tevis, and I hope you, too, will fall in love with THE WORLD IS ON FIRE. Then come talk to me about it.Side note for Athens-area folks: I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we can get Joni here in summer 2015 for a reading. You know I'll keep you updated about that!

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-03-06 20:07

    This ambitious collection of Americana-themed essays blends travel, personal anecdote, history and science. Throughout, Tevis zealously interrogates emblems of apocalypse: deserts, atomic bombs and the book of Revelation. She notices everything down to Alaskan lichen, and highlights less-visited sites most tourists miss. Personal details are deftly interwoven, as in “Somebody to Love,” where an intimate account of infertility meets a minibiography of Freddie Mercury.The catholicity of Tevis’s interest means she does not always bring multiple strands together convincingly. Still, her reach is impressive. With these atmospheric, offbeat essays, she rivals Barbara Kingsolver, Rebecca Solnit, John Jeremiah Sullivan and Terry Tempest Williams.(See my full review at Foreword.)

  • Jim
    2019-02-18 00:01

    I read individual essays in the book, and then thought about or re-read. So, it seems like I have been reading for a long time.Joni told me some of these stories or events before writing them, but as she does in her writing, has firmly placed them into context, into the scheme of her own broader story. Into a place of pain, hope, faith and passion. Into the geology that influenced or shaped the landscape. It is an entire galaxy of connection in smaller events. And that is, of course, what an historical, political, geological, and emotional sensibility must do.Riven particularly by 'Somebody to Love,' I thought of loss, replayed Freddie Mercury and watched his biopic, thought of the places we all take our pains or desires, shouting out for someone to love. Joni makes you do that after you read her essays.It's fun to watch an author grow, and this a wonderful book following her previous work, 'The Wet Collection.'

  • Courtney Brown
    2019-03-16 00:08

    This certainly is the year of the women in Courtney-Book-World. I met Joni Tevis recently when she did a reading at Avid Bookshop. I hadn't gotten very far into her book yet, but she opened with some comments on the writer and musician who had both preceded her at the event, likening them to spell-casters. As I worked my way through the book, I couldn't help but feel the same way about Joni, casting magical nets far and wide to write about exactly what she wants to write about. This book was dense with wonders, and the titular essay blew me away. I am totally fascinated by Tevis and her writing, in case you couldn't tell. (and she's just as wonderful in person!)

  • Colin
    2019-03-13 01:57

    It's mid-June, but this is easily the #1 contender for book of the year for me. It's smart, clear writing about complicated issues, all over the map but always aware of where it's going. In an era of flash nonfiction, it's a joy to read an author who still masters the long essay, and maintains a careful lyricism to balance the hard facts of the world. As my friend Josh likes to say about bands, I will refund your money if you don't like this book.

  • Libbyyoung
    2019-03-11 00:21

    The internal connectedness of Joni's thoughts and observations--amazing!

  • Jim
    2019-03-17 03:20

    I thought there would be zombies, plagues, and other end-of-world disasters with hardy survivor types. But, no. The subtitle is more accurate, because what you get is a collection of well-written and interesting essays of observations, memories, meditations, impressions. There were times I was a bit irritated by the combination of two different streams of interest within the body of a essay, but I often "got it" and even enjoyed it, though I tend to be a more straight forward type reader. There is a melancholy to the essays, for a South understood but somehow missed, in the dual meaning of both a world gone but also that she somehow missed seeing it with her own eyes and regretted that fact. There is nostalgia, and a sense of warmth for the old, the gone, the eternal. She reminds me somewhat of a combination of Sarah Vowell (but less humorous) and Ron Rash. I know, you're scratching you heads. Vowell also has a fascination with historical sites relating to death, such as assassinations. Tevis' obsessions come from an evangelical fixation on the apocalypse and a somewhat common strain in Southern culture, though the book as a whole is not necessarily dark. Several essays, for instance, focus on the death of Buddy Holly and his fellow passengers in the fated plane. The material that I seemed to love the most were memoirs and commentary about the South, upstate South Carolina and Appalachian areas. My roots are somewhat different but intersect both in feel, temperament, interest, and experience. She also touches my love of travelogue. I could almost feel the crushed glass and brick under my feet in the abandoned mill (she loves these types of structures, it seems), as I have also a fascination with visiting similar places. So basically, I encourage you to try them out. You can take them in tiny bites, but I think you will savor them in the end.

  • Harris
    2019-03-02 03:11

    In these essays and personal stories, Joni Tevis explores an amazing multiplicity of topics, touching on themes of the end of the world, religion, music, and nature. So many topics, in fact, that I became deliciously lost in references to American history, popular music, the urban, the rural, and the wilderness of of life. Reading this book left my head spinning with wonder, chasing after glinting tangents that lead me to new and marvelous vistas, voyaging from the Deep South to the Far West and father afield. Under the overlaying theme of the end of the world, whether through atomic fire or the loss of a job, faith and life, this is a piece I will read again and again, learning new things every time. Tevis' writing is a like a masterfully crafted quilt of ideas, each piece being placed into a coherent, lovely whole, connecting things you would never imagine linked into a beautiful whole; underground nuclear tests and Liberace, museum dioramas and Appalachian sisters. Every sentence seems to bring new insights. Alternating heartbreak, humor, and eerie coincidence, she braves the crumbling ruins of dead South Carolina industry, lost schoolhouses on the Iowan prairie, the bleak but beautiful Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I have definitely found a new influence!

  • Ty Wilson
    2019-03-10 20:17

    In this wonderful collection of essays, Joni Tevis takes us along with her as she explores the world and shares the mental and emotional connections she makes along the way. Every person in this world has unique experiences and random connections that won't make sense to most people, and in this collection Joni expresses her connections in such a way that I feel I truly know her as I would a close friend. She has given me a sackful of ideas, places and people to investigate and those are even now being woven into the story of my life. I highly recommend this collection to anyone looking for a thought provoking book that will allow you to see the world in new and different ways.

  • Ginge
    2019-03-09 01:04

    Sorry to disappoint, but the three was a mistake which I thought I corrected. (It's happened twice now when I first rate a book on my Kindle instead of on the Goodreads page.)This is a well-written (beautiful in many places) collection of articles/stories which unite ideas, people, places, things (animal, mineral, vegetable) and events which aren't commonly associated. The ability to make these connections is Tevis' great gift but can also lead to disappointment, as she tries too hard to unite elements which maybe shouldn't be forced to coexist. My response to individual sections varied from exhilaration and tears of joy to metaphorically tossing the book at the wall.

  • Angela Palm
    2019-03-05 00:11

    This book was recommended to me by a friend in the book business who knows my tastes and penchant for braided essays. Here's what I loved: the book's dense, intellectual writing; fascinating, close-up views of things I'm most interested in but least understand. Tevis's writing is like a deep-sea camera, clearly illuminating places and people I'd never reach on my own. My favorite essays of the bunch were those dealing with the Sarah Winchester house, the a-bomb and Doom Town (wtf, America?!), and Freddie Mercury.

  • Alicia
    2019-03-13 01:22

    I came about this book from reading one of the included essays, "What the Body Knows," in a Writing Nonfiction class and was curious to read more of her works. Tevis's loving attention to detail brings out the small, the important details that others might overlook (moss, the rhythm of an auctioneers voice, the model Venus in an anatomical wax museum) and yet come to life within her essays. This is the kind of writing that makes me want to observe the world and share it with others in the hopes that I would be able to write as well as she does.

  • Bonnie
    2019-03-01 21:16

    Joni Tevis writes deep, almost reverential essays on a variety of topics - ranging from Freddie Mercury's voice from "Queen", the traveling scissors man, and much on the atomic bomb and nuclear testing in Nevada. Scattered among her words are quotes from Revelations - which add an even more somber tone to her writing. She often speaks of an apocalyptic world - and I found her essays to be quite depressing and dark.

  • Anne Marie
    2019-02-26 22:08

    Her style takes some getting used to as her writing sort of defies categorization. These are essays mixed with impressionistic poetic prose. By the time I got to the intermission--yes, that's right--I was really into this book. I love her attention to detail and her soulful unapologetic eye for the Real, for what it means to be human. This is confident and brave writing that commands attention and respect.

  • James
    2019-02-25 00:55

    nearly prefect collection. my only knock is a ridiculous one: once you've heard Joni read one of these live, you'll wish that they were all performed. she adds a physicality that really grounds the more heady aspects of her essays.

  • Tobias
    2019-02-19 01:53

    Incredibly well-assembled and insightful.

  • Kevin
    2019-03-04 02:14

    Some well written essays, but a little too heady for me. All things apocalypse should be fun, but I just wasn't drawn in. Didn't finish.

  • Jami
    2019-03-03 00:56

    Some of these more research-based lyric essays were lovely, but I got lost in others-- when there was no "I" to ground the narrative I was less interested.

  • Patricia
    2019-03-10 04:18

    It was good to know my fondness for Freddy Mercury has a sound musical foundation. Otherwise I didn't really catch on to these, but I might try again.

  • Erica
    2019-03-12 21:15

    Urgent and unabashedly obsessed with obscurity. So good.

  • Martha Toll
    2019-03-03 23:56

    Here's a piece I published about this book and the time period.

  • Kristi Erickson
    2019-03-05 01:20

    I didn't really finish - just kind of gave up. I liked it and at the same time, found it difficult. I blame myself, really - think I'm a lazy reader this summer.