The best personal essays allow a momentary glimpse of the writer’s vulnerability and reveal facets of the writer’s personality that they otherwise shroud in secrecy. Yet, for these essays to work, their words and phrases must dance with a lithesome rhythm that carries readers along to a climactic revelatory moment. The essays collected in Evan James’ I’ve Been Wrong Before dazzle with such moments and language ... With spellbinding radiance, I’ve Been Wrong Before illumines the corners of James’ life and loves and captures a man in search of, and discovering, words that describe the jagged, sometimes ineffable paths he’s traversed in his life.
... [James] makes notes aplenty, even about the most quotidian moments (throwing his back out) but hardly at breakneck speed; his pace is more sedate, proceeding well within the literary speed limit. A peripatetic sort, he sets his essays in such disparate places as New Zealand, Bali, and Spain, with the latter the setting for arguably the finest piece in the collection, which recounts a sojourn at the age of 19 searching for independence. Perhaps he has been wrong before, but in this fine collection he is inarguably right.