State Secrets

Everybody's talking about who can bring America together. But who's going to take it apart? STATE BY STATE (Ecco; 572 pages) is an anthology of 50 essays by 50 writers about the 50 states. The idea is to celebrate disunity: to find aspects of each state that are still distinctive, that have resisted the forces of cultural homogenization. This could be about as exciting as studying for your ged, but the results are actually kind of great.

A lot of the pleasure lies in the piquancy of the writer-state pairings. Some are more obvious--heavy hitter Jonathan Franzen handles New York. Some...

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