Patrick Madden

186 pages
23 photographs, 25 illustrations, 5 word search puzzles


April 2020


$22.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2020


$22.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

April 2020


$22.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

15 Bytes Book Award
2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Gold Medal Winner

In English disparate means “different” or “miscellaneous”—apt descriptors of these essays by Patrick Madden. In Spanish, however, disparate means “nonsense,” “folly,” or “absurdity,”—words appropriate to Madden’s goal of undercutting any notion that essays must be serious business. Thus, in this collection, the essays are frivolous and lively, aiming to make readers laugh while they think about such abstract subjects as happiness and memory and unpredictability.

In this vein, Madden takes sidelong swipes at weighty topics via form, with wildly meandering essays, abandoned essays in honor of the long tradition of essayists disparaging their own efforts, and guerrilla essays—which slip in quietly under the guise of a borrowed form, abruptly attack, and promptly escape, leaving laughter and contemplation in their wake. Madden also incorporates cameos from guest essayists, including Mary Cappello, Matthew Gavin Frank, David Lazar, Michael Martone, Jericho Parms, and Wendy S. Walters, much like a musician features other performers.

Disparates reflects the current zeitgeist by taking on important issues with a touch of cleverness, a dash of humor, and a little help from one’s friends.

Author Bio

Patrick Madden is a professor at Brigham Young University. He is the author of the award-winning Sublime Physick: Essays (Nebraska, 2016) and Quotidiana: Essays (Nebraska, 2010), and coeditor, with David Lazar, of After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays. His essays have appeared in a variety of periodicals as well as in The Best Creative Nonfiction and The Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. Visit Madden’s website at quotidiana.org.


"If you love the personal essay, or are open to learning to love it, the freewheeling, luminous, disparate Patrick Madden is well worth the time."—David Kirkham, Lit Pub

"Disparates honors the futile and the essential in both content and form. Don’t read this collection if you hate essays, especially lyric essays, or dislike being reminded that you are reading an essay. Nor should you read this book if you demand a point and feel slighted to learn that 'life doesn’t always happen in the best order or with the best details.' This is a book for those who appreciate amusement and 'raucous play.' As for me—a life-long student of essays, and a teacher of them—I’ll be turning to Disparates as a model for a long time to come."—Rachel Rueckert, Tupelo Quarterly

"Madden’s essays offer relief—they offer laughter, provoke pondering, and delight in playfulness. . . . Disparates delights in the world and celebrates the essay. It was a joy to read."—Natalie Johansen, Brevity

"The writing is playful and marked by humility, with Madden often inviting readers—and other writers—into the narrative. A capable collection of writing that continually reviews itself."—Kirkus Reviews

"'Disparates' are 'things so unlike that there is no basis for comparison.' There is surely no basis for comparison of these essays to any other book I've read."—Linda Marshall, Pop Matters

 “Patrick Madden has made a career championing the essay—its traditions, its tenets, and its opportunities. In this, his third collection, Madden masterfully demonstrates a crucial (and often overlooked) element of the form—raucous play—in each smart, active piece. Disparates plays constantly: with shape, with subject, with language; it even plays well with others in several lively collaborations. I savored this collection over several days like it was a sampler of fine candy . . . and then I found twenty bucks.”—Elena Passarello, author of Animals Strike Curious Poses

“You’re in for a treat picking up Pat Madden’s Disparates, a book that doubles down so hard on its disparity it ends up holding together in surprising ways. Madden is maniacal in his fidelity to found forms (eBay auction listing, OED definition, literary translation, wordfind puzzle, etc.) and seemingly bad ideas (composing an essay by machine-learned predictive text, writing pangram haiku, discussing the band Rush), but due to his prodigious enthusiasm and intelligence he lands more jumps than not. My favorite feature of Disparates seems at first like the book’s worst idea: most of these essays feature other writers in guest spots. The overall effect is that of a perforated, collaborative self, manifesting exactly the kind of generosity and playfulness we could use a lot more of in literary nonfiction.”—Ander Monson, author of I Will Take the Answer

Disparates is a generous romp of a book. Patrick Madden’s essays open windows onto glee and silliness as well as grief and love. In forms as wide-ranging as Balderdash, wordsearch, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and James Brady’s bygone Parade feature “In Step With…,” Madden shows us again, as in his previous books, that the daily stuff of life sings out for examination and play. Read with an eye peeled for: Dr. Demento, the Jackalope, pahoehoe lava, and the important reminder that ‘Laughter is a taste of your own medicine’. ‘Whenever I fix/ my quips to the jazzy world,/ I come back agape,’ he writes. After reading Disparates, I feel the same: changed, alive to surprise, comforted, dazzled.”—Joni Tevis, author of The World Is on Fire

“You cannot help but read Madden’s essays and grin at his deadpan maniacal love for detail and life and kids and anecdotes and wrinkles in the fabric of nominal reality. The guy is obsessed with nominal reality and all the shimmers and windows in it. A terrific essayist, and even better, wholly and utterly unique—there really isn’t an essayist today who writes like this, I think, and for all Madden’s worshipping of Montaigne, Madden’s more interesting and absorbing and funny. Heresy! But it’s true.”—the late Brian Doyle, author of One Long River of Song

Table of Contents

Writer Michael Martone’s Leftover Water: Imbibe literary genius (dozens of authors) in one swig!    
Nostalgia (feat. Lawrence Sutin)    
Insomnia (feat. Lina María Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas)    
Unpredictable Essays    
Laughter (feat. Jericho Parms)    
Memorizing the Lyrics    
Happiness (feat. Amy Leach)     
Alfonsina y el Mar    
Mea Culpa    
Expectations (feat. Desirae Matherly)     
Freewill (feat. Joe Oestreich)     
In Step with . . . Montaigne (feat. David Lazar)     
Thumbs (feat. Elena Passarello & Wendy S. Walters)    
Smells (feat. Stephen Haynie)    
The Proverbial __________    
Old Time Rock and Roll (feat. Michael Martone)    
The Arrogance of Style    
Distance (feat. Joni Tevis)    
Beat on the Brat    
Against the Wind    
Pangram Haiku 
Plums (feat. Matthew Gavin Frank)     
Listening (feat. Mary Cappello)     


15 Bytes Book Award
2021 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Gold Medal Winner 

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