Between Panic and Desire


Between Panic and Desire

Dinty W. Moore

American Lives Series

168 pages
2 illustrations


March 2010


$14.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

“Insouciant” and “irreverent” are the sort of words that come up in reviews of Dinty W. Moore’s books—and, invariably, “hilarious.” Between Panic and Desire, named after two towns in Pennsylvania, finds Moore at the top of his astutely funny form. A book that could be named after one of its chapters, “A Post-Nixon, Post-panic, Post-modern, Post-mortem,” this collection is an unconventional memoir of one man and his culture, which also happens to be our own.
Blending narrative and quizzes, memory and numerology, and imagined interviews and conversations with dead presidents on TV, the book dizzily documents the disorienting experience of growing up in a postmodern world. Here we see how the major events in the author’s early life—the Kennedy assassination, Nixon’s resignation, watching Father Knows Best, and dropping acid atop the World Trade Center, to name a few—shaped the way he sees events both global and personal today. More to the point, we see how these events shaped, and possibly even distorted, today’s world for all of us who spent our formative years in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. A curious meditation on family and bereavement, longing and fear, self-loathing and desire, Between Panic and Desire unfolds in kaleidoscopic forms—a coroner’s report, a TV movie script, a Zen koan—aptly reflecting the emergence of a fractured virtual America.

Author Bio

Dinty W. Moore is a professor of English at Ohio University and the author of several books, including Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and CannibalsThe Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction, and The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still.


Between Panic and Desire is more autopsy than memoir—a strange new hybrid. It's a fantasy of letting go of the things that have haunted Moore his entire life. These things do, in fact, float off the pages.”—Los Angeles Times

“[A] quirky, entertaining joyride.”—Publishers Weekly

“Moore forges a brisk, incisive, funny, sometimes silly, yet stealthily affecting memoir in essays and skits, a ‘generational autobiography,’ and good candid guy stuff. . . . Each anecdote, piece of pop-culture trivia, and frankly confessed panic and desire yields a chunk of irony and a sliver of wisdom.”—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Between Panic and Desire turns the memoir genre on its head as it deftly moves from essay to essay."—Peter Grandbois, Review of Contemporary Fiction

“The writing is frequently very funny; insightful, too, especially Moore’s belief that humans are generally delusional when it comes to their expectations vs. what is realistically possible. . . . The narrative has its poignant moments, particularly in Moore’s recollections of his father. And despite his fractured take on the world, his message is essentially hopeful. Moore, it seems, is moving on.”—Robert Kelly, Library Journal

“This book is funny, funny, funny. It is an unconventional—some might say, experimental—collection of frolicsome and touching personal essays. . . . [T]he book is a rare example of how unusual form actually helps. It is the ideal display for Dinty’s imagination. He daydreams. He fantasizes. He hallucinates. And this is nonfiction. For anyone who thinks the genre is nothing more than a retelling of facts, pick up a copy of Between Panic and Desire. . . . It is literary nonfiction with integrity. And it’s fun.”—Oxford Town

“In intertwined, wildly inventive essays . . . Moore conjures up his, and our, past from a grab-bag of elements. . . . He doesn't work through this crazy salad so much as play with it, using individual motifs as shiny mosaic stones to arrange in funny, intriguing shapes.”—Athens News

"From the outset it is clear that our author, a seasoned writer of creative nonfiction, is on a quest of discovery, understanding and forgiveness. His style of writing is engaging and the structure, intriguing in this fast-paced, quirky memoir that is deadly serious."—Sue Kreke Rumbaugh, Coal Hill Review

“This is a refreshing and invigorating book, taking the predictable memoir form in new directions—playfully, sincerely, and intelligently. This is a terrific book.”—Bret Lott, author of Jewel

“Dinty W. Moore's prose is crisp and clean, his insights sparkle with biting clarity and magnetic charm. This is an unusual, joyful and compelling memoir.”—Lee Gutkind, author of Almost Human: Making Robots Think and editor of Creative Nonfiction

Table of Contents


Prologue: Between Panic and Desire

Part One. Panic

1. Introduction: Hello, My Name Is _______

2. Son of Mr. Green Jeans: A Meditation on Missing Fathers

3. Double Vision

4. Son of Richard M. Nixon

5. Three Bad Trips, 1968-77

6. Questions and Activities before Continuing

Part Two. Paranoia

7. Introduction: Imagine That

8. Baseball, Hot Dogs, Mescaline, and Chevrolet

9. Number Nine

10. 1984

11. Questions and Activities before Continuing

Part Three. Desire

12. Introduction: Why Oprah Doesn't Call

13. Son of George McManus

14. Three Milestones

15. Leonard Koan

16. Son of a Bush

17. Three Days in September

18. What You Want, What You Get, What You Need: A Post-Nixon, Post-panic, Post-modern, Post-mortem

19. "Curtis Knows Best": Towering, Permanent, Perilous, and Soon to be Televised on a Widescreen Near You

20. The Final Chapter


About the Author


2009 Grub Street National Book Award in Nonfiction

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