Cheston Knapp discusses his new essay collection, Up Up, Down Down with Matthew Zapruder.
Praise for Up Up, Down Down
"Full of wit and disquiet, Cheston Knapp’s Up Up, Down Down is a glittering collection of essays about nostalgia, skateboarding, fathers, waterslides, and all kinds of community. The path toward whatever we mean by “maturity” is a flowering vine of fruitful discomfort in these pages, and so much grows from it: acute self-awareness, intricate curiosity, tender interrogations. This book made me laugh out loud in embarrassing places—a quiet Swedish train, a darkened redeye flight—and its insights will keep echoing in me for a long time." Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
"Up, Up, Down, Down is an always smart, often hilarious, and ultimately transcendent essay collection, full of thousand-dollar words and genuine goodness. You think you’re reading about tennis, low-rent wrestling, the death of a neighbor, or the perils of beer pong, but suddenly you’re pondering the biggest questions: What is kindness? What is self-consciousness? How does articulating an experience change it? It’s an unqualified pleasure to be in Knapp’s company." Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
"Cheston Knapp’s Up Up, Down Down has the uncanny, welcome ability to make so-called mainstream or dominant culture—white, masculinist, Christian, frat boy, and so on—appear newly strange, and newly open to analysis. He has the eye and ear of an anthropologist, a joyously expansive vocabulary, a prose style that feels both extravagant and exact, and a big, booming heart." Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
About Up Up, Down Down
Daring and wise, hilarious and tender, Cheston Knapp’s exhilarating collection of seven linked essays, Up Up, Down Down, tackles the Big Questions through seemingly unlikely avenues. In his dexterous hands, an examination of a local professional wrestling promotion becomes a meditation on pain and his relationship with his father. A profile of UFO enthusiasts ends up probing his history in the church and, more broadly, the nature and limits of faith itself. Attending an adult skateboarding camp launches him into a virtuosic analysis of nostalgia. And the shocking murder of a neighbor expands into an interrogation of our culture’s prevailing ideas about community and the way we tell the stories of our lives. Even more remarkable, perhaps, is the way he manages to find humanity in a damp basement full of frat boys.
Taken together, the essays in Up Up, Down Down amount to a chronicle of Knapp’s coming-of-age, a young man’s journey into adulthood, late-onset as it might appear. He presents us with formative experiences from his childhood to marriage that echo throughout the collection, and ultimately tilts at what may be the Biggest Q of them all: what are the hazards of becoming who you are?