...shows that Cole has fulfilled the dazzling promise of his novels. He ranges over his interests with voracious keenness, laser-sharp prose, an open heart and a clear eye. His subjects are diverse and disparate. Readers are certain to find a personal favourite ... There is such richness in these essays that it is not possible, in this short space, to do justice to all their delights.
The stunning second section, 'Seeing Things,' is especially captivating and reveals Cole’s voracious appetite for and love of the visual ... When the occasional essay fails to hold interest it’s because the connections Cole draws to some European lineage remain tenuous ... On every level of engagement and critique, Known and Strange Things is an essential and scintillating journey.
Strewn throughout the work are a set of pieces that sit simultaneously within and apart from the rest of the book. Drawn together these essays amount to what Kevin Young calls in The Grey Album, a 'removed shadow book.' It’s through that Known and Strange Things finds focus: written during a political era framed by 'forever wars,' terrorism, our collective traumatization, and now renewed authoritarianism, Cole’s essays offer ways of our through the arts’ beautiful provocations ... Maybe because he’s constantly seeking new narrative spaces, Cole is on the road regularly. Essays like 'Always Returning,' 'Unnamed Lake,' Far Away from Here,' 'Brazilian Earth,' and 'Two Weeks' display his predilection for traveling to places where truths might arise with this sort of involuntary action ... Spread intermittently among the collection’s sections, surrounding pieces slightly obfuscating their subjects, these essays are Cole’s shadow book. This improvised book’s meaning is never fully realized; however, to borrow Kevin Young’s words, it 'represents a willingness to recognize the unfinished, process-based quality of life and art, even taking pleasure in the incompleteness of being.'”