Some [stories] are heartbreakingly sad; some laugh-out-loud funny; some momentous and tragic; almost all of them resonant or surprising. They are stories that attest to the startling varieties and travails of human experience, and the shared threads of love, loss, fear and kindness that connect us ... The stories here, for the most part, have translated seamlessly to the page. Though they are all relatively short — average Moth performances range from five minutes to 12 minutes — most possess a remarkable emotional depth and sincerity ... They are not random reminiscences, however, but closely focused, finely tuned narratives that have the force of an epiphany, while opening out to disclose the panoramic vistas of one person’s life or the shockingly disparate worlds they have inhabited or traversed.
I found it a problematic business to review this new book. Not just because it’s a series of spoken monologues in printed form, thereby depriving the reader of important clues of tone, posture and context. Indeed, I am conflicted about the quality of this anthology. I found myself deeply moved half of the time, with some variation of the words 'I will remember this for the rest of my life' echoing inside my head...On the other hand, it would be inaccurate but not incorrect to describe All These Wonders as being This American Life meets Ivy League admission essays. It would be mean-spirited but not wrong to say the book reveals the kind of humanity Lena Dunham and high-profile ad agencies would invent in collaboration ... In view of this, I give three-quarters of All These Wonders my highest praise, and the remaining quarter a curt dismissal.
Celebrity is hard to find here and no more a guarantor of interest than anything else. Comedian Tig Notaro begins telling about her stepfather’s dealing with her messy room and goes on through her mother’s death and her search for her childhood belongings. It is moving and largely irrelevant to her fame. So too is John Turturro telling about being his mother’s protector 'in a volatile house' and dealing with his mentally ill brother Ralph. Writer Meg Wolitzer tells about she and her friend Martha watching 'as Richard Nixon was lifted from the White House like a rotting piece of lawn furniture' ... They’re all arresting tales but no more so than those by everyone else.