This first collection of Stone’s nonfiction, edited by his biographer, Madison Smartt Bell, brings together essays written for a variety of periodicals...and showcases the same dizzying welter of ideas and passions that defines Stone’s landmark fiction ... In What Fiction Is For [Stone] says that 'art is the only medium we have for removing a moment from the whirl of events and placing it under scrutiny in all its dimensions.' These essays, however, argue persuasively that, for Stone, nonfiction can do the same thing.
[Stone] was always accepting assignments because he was almost pathologically restless and because he tended to procrastinate on the promised big productions. The nonfiction can show him at his most playful ... Only the inclusion of 'Coda,' written two years before his death and never before published, is an editorial mistake. It is rambling, mawkish, and seems to be addressed to his 'small, loyal band of readers on whose love I have lived.' ... I don’t even want to believe he wrote this.
Novelist Bell...presents a sterling collection of essays on literature, culture, politics, and war by the late Stone ... Spanning the 1970s to the aughts, the essays demonstrate Stone’s remarkable capacity for capturing an era’s ethos while making larger, and still current, points ... Throughout, Bell provides useful biographical information, which in combination with the essays provides a vivid portrait of Stone’s background and guiding philosophy. Fans of Stone’s novels will especially appreciate the insight, but any reader of narrative nonfiction will find plenty of interest in this fine collection.