Lost in Summerland: Essays

Counterpoint. May 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781640094185. $26. SOC SCI
In a collection of essays, Swanson (English, Univ. of Wisconsin–Whitewater) takes readers with him to places around the United States. Along his journey, he connects with vivid ideas and people and searches with sensitivity for meaning in life’s vicissitudes. He explores the challenges of masculinity at a camp in Ohio; works alongside military veterans at a therapeutic rural organic farm co-op in Wisconsin; visits the elderly founder of the utopian Venus Project in southern Florida; considers climate change at a water park in Wisconsin; participates in a mock disaster drill in Texas; and attends a convention in Bethesda, MD, for fans of the TV show West Wing. Additional essays share Swanson’s philosophical musings on significant experiences in his life, such as his experience with chronic depression, playing football, losing a friend who drowned, and accompanying his supposedly psychic brother to a gathering of spiritualists in Lily Dale, NY. Swanson ties these varied essays together with an overarching theme of looking for meaning in a chaotic world.
VERDICT This wide-ranging work is part literary collection, part cultural examination; it should appeal to armchair travelers interested in learning about different worldviews and finding meaning in the everyday.
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