To assemble State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, editors Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey drew inspiration from the Depression-era WPA guides, which were designed to help travelers navigate the country by car. The new book isn’t so practical, and its weakest essays make much of America feel a whole lot like Brooklyn; Dave Eggers (Illinois) and Heidi Julavits (Maine) address their chosen spots with shallow humor, and any state deserves better than Saïd Sayrafiezadeh’s smug, solipsistic assessment of South Dakota. The thoroughly reported pieces, however, are worth exploring: Dagoberto Gilb catches up with Mexican laborers in Iowa cornfields, Jacki Lyden captures St. Louis’ new role as a boomtown for Bosnian immigrants, and William T. Vollmann, responding to an editor’s complaint that his first draft on California wasn’t upbeat enough, describes a lively genital-nailing night at a San Francisco S&M club. For this event Weiland and Lyden will be joined by Joshua Clark (Louisiana), and author Edward P. Jones, who’s interviewed about D.C. for the book.
THE EVENT BEGINS AT 6 P.M. AT THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS’ MONTPELIER ROOM, 1ST ST. AND INDEPENDENCE AVE. SE. FREE. (202) 707-5221.