UP UP, DOWN DOWN
By Cheston Knapp
Scribner, February 2, 2018
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?
“Always smart, often hilarious, and ultimately transcendent. —Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See
“A glittering collection of essays about nostalgia, skateboarding, fathers, waterslides, and all kinds of community... This book made me laugh out loud in embarassing places and its insights will keep echoing in me for a long time.” —Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams
“[Knapp] 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
“With an ordnance of wit, acuity, and casual erudition, these essays explode the local and everyday into huge and moving human reaches. This is the sort of book you look up from to find the dull room around you newly charged with life’s important particles.” —Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
“Exhilarating and funny and endlessly smart.” —Jim Shephard, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway
“Pierce the surface to get to the depths, then rise up from the depths to laugh on the surface – Knapp performs some amazing alchemy in Up Up, Down Down by letting the two planes coexist so beautifully.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
About the Author
Cheston Knapp is managing editor of Tin House magazine and executive director of the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop. His work has appeared in Tin House and One Story, and he received the Oregon Book Awards’ 2015 Oregon Literary Fellowship. He lives in Portland, Oregon.