Matthew Vollmer’s latest book, Permanent Exhibit, is a collection of intimate, lyrical meditations that unfold according to the surprising associative leaps so often made by the human mind, but which, to my experience as a reader, rarely find their way into writing. The sentences meander and swerve and switchback from perception to recognition to recollection to speculation; the essays themselves, each composed of a single paragraph, capture the more gradual of the mind's movements, proceeding from a condition of certainty to uncertainty, of observation to hypothesis, of apathy to wonder.
The fragments that make up Permanent Exhibit by Matthew Vollmer read like memoir, like essays, like poetry. They are unconventional, short, and punchy, imitating the lexicon of contemporary internet discourse while sharpening the rhetorical edges to enhance the language’s poetic qualities ... The character of the narrator is fully fleshed, endearing and quirky ... The bank of human experience Vollmer draws from is not limited to contemporary absurdity. Many of the essays are culled from Vollmer’s memories, American mythologies, and oral histories. The essays feel as if they were written outside of any particular time or context ... The reader is left with the sense of the narrator as a sort of bicycling spirit, in motion through the world, carefully attentive to it, but detached ... He handles the political and the religious in the way good literature has long treated such subjects: as absurd, but strangely comforting, side-effects of our humanity ... The essays in Permanent Exhibit are in equal parts funny and devastating.
Endearingly tender essays reveal the quirky flights of a curious mind ... His musings on nature recall the sensibility of poet Mary Oliver; his reflections on family, David Sedaris. Unexpected juxtapositions yield pleasurable surprises ... Keenly attentive to the landscape ... Captivating journeys with a playful, winsome guide.