There’s a wealth of information about everything from meteorites to shrapnel in this book, but you read an essayist like Frazier primarily for the encounter between his sensibility and the world. Observation backed up by research and marinated in rumination and wordcraft produces lines freighted with insight ... Frazier doesn’t insist on a perfect roundedness of form in his essays. Rather than arranging every last element for maximum thematic coherence and effect, he’ll leave in a moment, a scene, seemingly for the hell of it...Frazier’s tendency to leave things a little baggy, in combination with his commitment to understatement, sometimes crowds out the point of the shorter pieces, which can seem willfully slight. But on the whole it serves to reinforce his great meta-theme. He’s not hauling out some bag of essayistic tricks to force the world to seem interesting, beautiful or weird. It just is.
Hogs Wild, a new collection of Mr. Frazier’s reported pieces, makes you want to drop everything and start reading ... Frazier’s visits to hog-heavy places in the South to trek deep into the woods with hog experts to see wild hogs are Jack-London exciting. Frazier is admirably non-judgmental. He provides vivid, startlingly fresh, often humorous, descriptions – along with historical backstory. But he mostly lets readers form their own opinions ... Frazier’s unquenchable curiosity is remarkable. He will return again and again to the venue of his topic till he’s captured its essence ... [a] brilliant collection.
In Hogs Wild Frazier is in chameleon mode. He’s a science writer. No, wait, he’s a New York City historian — or a muckraker, or a cultural critic. His essays range from whimsical to wisecracking to withering. The shortest of them — probably 'Talk of the Town' items for The New Yorker — sometimes feel disposable. But the longer ones, where he really digs in, feel indispensable ... Read Hogs Wild, and you won’t just be entertained. You’ll feel smarter.
A few of these essays are short 'Talk of the Town' pieces from the New Yorker, with topics ranging from an elementary school’s discussion of derogatory racial terms to the colorful New Jersey bus driver — he lined his dashboard with toy ducks and tossed snowballs at passing police officers — who became more somber after 9/11. Longer pieces showcase Frazier’s wide range of interests and feature an eclectic mix of characters ... the Frazier wit is present even in his most serious essays ... We’re a long way from the zaniness of Frazier’s Cursing Mommy essays, but Hogs Wild offers subtler pleasures: humor-infused portraits of eccentrics and insightful analyses of the modern world.
Ian Frazier is informative, entertaining, but also conventional, marching firmly in the footsteps of American humorists of the past. If you like Dave Barry’s pointed guffaws, the devoted research of Dave Eggers, and the ambling structure of Mark Twain, then you will like Ian Frazier ... He is a master of arranging the scene with just the right details to give a sense of the landscape—even beyond the scope of his essay ... The one distraction is that Frazier is always in the scene, too ... What I’m trying to get at is that Frazier is enjoyable, understandably popular, but not ground-breaking.