True Stories and Other Essays, Francis Spufford, 2017

I’d never heard of Spufford, a well-known British novelist and essayist, until this book was reviewed in the Sunday NYT Book Review by Philip Lopate who refers to the author as a ‘highly cultivated English writer who possesses vast stores of curiosity.’  No doubt about that, but his and my curiosity did not always match up.  His sections on polar explorers and Richard Dawkins’ atheism were excellent, but he did drone on about religion, technology, the fall of the Soviet Union, and some obscure science fiction writers.  Perhaps the difficulty was the translation from English to American since I often found his language and idioms somewhat obscure. Lopate appears to agree that Spufford is not likely to make either of our lists of favorite essayists and explains that judgement in fine prose:  “There are essayists who can take the most arcane or trifling subjects and make them enthralling.  I am not sure that is the case here.”