You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine follows a female protagonist, named simply A, and her increasing disconnect from herself and the nondescript American suburb around her. The reader follows her through empty malls, launderettes, deeply disturbing supermarket trips and – many times over – around the flat in which she watches TV commercials with her boyfriend, C, and conducts a needy relationship with her friend, B. Until the cult-like behaviour of her neighbours begins to attract her attention.
Andreas Winkelman (Max von Sydow) is repairing the roof of the cottage in which he lives as a literate hermit. At one point, he stares off at the sun that hangs low and dim—with edges made ragged by a telephoto lens—in the Scandinavian sky. Suddenly the sun disappears into the gray-blue haze, but it’s as if Andreas had willed it invisible, much as he has tried to will himself invisible without taking the ultimate step. With this lovely image, Ingmar Bergman begins ‘The Passion of Anna’.
28 May 1970, The New York Times, Review by Vincent Canby
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Teju Cole delights in following his curiosity to unexpected places. He is lively, funny and more of a rambler than his concise writing would suggest, prone to amusing tangents — about, for instance, his ability to detect whether someone prefers Rihanna or Beyonce.
From the the LA Times article by Meredith Blake
Largely absent from “Known and Strange Things” is traditionally autobiographical writing; personal details are scant in Cole’s essays, as are mentions of his parents, wife and family. “I don’t necessarily want to talk to you about what’s happened inside my bedroom,” he concedes, saying that what passes as personal is often just prurient. That’s not to say his writing lacks intimacy or insight into his passions; indeed, Cole focuses on what he calls “the really secret stuff” — the art, ideas and images that bring him pleasure.
Cole is a highly associative thinker whose diverse interests allow him to make unexpected, illuminating connections, as in an essay using an obscure art theory devised by the 19th-century Italian writer Vittorio Imbriani to explain Google’s Search by Image function.
For his part, Cole doesn’t think such eclecticism is so exceptional. “You like literature. And that does not seem to conflict with the fact that you like TV, or the fact that you watch films…
“It’s OK not to be the smartest boy in class,” he said, “because knowing how much you don’t know can then be the starting point for engaging with the world.”