Advanced Praise for A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape



“In A Cloud of Unusual Size and Shape, Matt Donovan spins his obsessions—Pompeii, the Pantheon, Raphael’s Transfiguration—into storytelling gold. Donovan’s distinctive vision, gorgeous prose, and curious mind combine brilliantly. A pleasure to read, from start to finish.

 — Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire



“Matt Donovan’s essays are haunted, searching, lyrical, and above all dogged in their ability to conjoin personal history with public history, whether he is investigating the ruins of Pompeii, the Trinity bomb site, or his grandparents’ ghostly home movies. His voice is erudite but intimate, and his self-reckonings and troubled reflections almost invariably give way to a bracing sense of wonder. ‘Memory,’ wrote the ever-canny Walter Benjamin, ‘is not an instrument for surveying the past but its theatre.’ Matt Donovan understands this metaphor in a manner that is shared by only a precious few of his contemporaries, and his book is a dazzling performance.” 

— David Wojahn, author of World Tree



“There’s no contemporary essayist who can touch Matt Donovan for his companionableness, his easy and immense erudition. With self-deprecating modesty and humor, Donovan is devoted to facts, skeptical of himself and his desires, and deeply in love with the contradictory ways that history and personal experience shape each other. His meditations on the atomic bomb, on Pompeii and the Pantheon in Rome, are unparalleled for their speculative reach and grasp of physical detail.” 

— Tom Sleigh, author of Station Zed



“Matt Donovan masterfully reveals how art elevates what is ruined and captures what is absent. These meditations, which collapse time and geography, bring into poignant relief the nature of the untamable mind and our complexly vexed humanity. At its heart, the book is an homage to the impenetrable mystery of the sacred.” 

— Kathleen Graber, author of The Eternal City