The world vibrates with weirdness, some people are just more attuned to it than others. This book is an astonishingly profound exploration of the pathos, humor, beauty, and irreconcilable strangeness that exists underneath the numbing mundanity of everyday life. Whether he is speculating about the inner lives of the Royal Family, searching for tigers in the Himalayas, or driving down Route 66 to Area 51, Phillips is always digging further, unwilling to stay at the surface of a story. Framing his research within the context of his own experiences and emotions, he merges the external and internal, unceasing in his pursuit of the maddeningly elusive "whole truth." It might not even exist — by the end of this collection, it almost felt beside the point. Impossible Owls is a tiny behemoth of a book, a sprawling universe in paperback. Recommended By Lauren P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A globe-spanning, ambitious book of essays from one of the most enthralling storytellers in narrative nonfiction
In his highly anticipated debut essay collection, Impossible Owls, Brian Phillips demonstrates why he’s one of the most iconoclastic journalists of the digital age, beloved for his ambitious, off-kilter, meticulously reported essays that read like novels.
The eight essays assembled here ― five from Phillips’s Grantland and MTV days, and three new pieces ― go beyond simply chronicling some of the modern world’s most uncanny, unbelievable, and spectacular oddities (though they do that, too). Researched for months and even years on end, they explore the interconnectedness of the globalized world, the consequences of history, the power of myth, and the ways people attempt to find meaning. He searches for tigers in India, and uncovers a multigenerational mystery involving an oil tycoon and his niece turned stepdaughter turned wife in the Oklahoma town where he grew up. Through each adventure, Phillips’s remarkable voice becomes a character itself ― full of verve, rich with offhanded humor, and revealing unexpected vulnerability.
Dogged, self-aware, and radiating a contagious enthusiasm for his subjects, Phillips is an exhilarating guide to the confusion and wonder of the world today. If John Jeremiah Sullivan’s Pulphead was the last great collection of New Journalism from the print era, Impossible Owls is the first of the digital age.
“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 But What if We’re Wrong? and Eating the Dinosaur
"Entertaining, eclectic, and often insightful...Phillips’s narrative voice is consistently appealing, and often laugh-out-loud funny...Phillips’s essays leave readers with newfound appreciation for subjects they may not have considered before." Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Brian Phillips is a former staff writer for Grantland and a former senior writer for MTV News. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Slate, and Poetry, among other publications, as well as in Best American Sports Writing and Best American Magazine Writing. He lives in Los Angeles. Impossible Owls is his debut book.