The idea of connection permeates I Will Take the Answer, Ander Monson’s fourth book of utterly original and intelligent essays. How is our present connected to our past and future? How do neural connections form memories, and why do we recall them when we do? And how do we connect with one another in meaningful ways, across time and space?
In the opening essay, which extends across the book in brief subsequent pieces, a trip through a storm sewer in Tucson inspires Monson to trace the city’s relationship to Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who shot Gabrielle Giffords and killed six bystanders, along with how violence is produced and how we grieve and honor the dead. With the formally inventive “I in River,” he ruminates on water in a waterless city and the structures we use to attempt to contain and control it. Monson also visits the exuberantly nerdy kingdom of a Renaissance Faire, and elaborates on the enduring appeal of sad songs through the lens of March Sadness, an online competition that he cofounded, an engaging riff on the NCAA basketball tournament brackets in which sad songs replace teams.
As personal and idiosyncratic as the best mixtape, I Will Take the Answer showcases Monson’s deep thinking and broad-ranging interests, his sly wit, his soft spot for heavy metal, and his ability to tunnel deeply into the odd and revealing, sometimes subterranean, worlds of American life.