University of Nebraska Press, Feb 2016
264 pp; $24.95
Spanning a dozen essays of various lengths and subject matter, Sublime Physick presents questions and poses possibilities in Patrick Madden’s signature cerebral, yet often comical, style. No human endeavor is insignificant, not even spitting—or better yet, gleeking, which Madden describes as an expectorant art form. And no human foible is exempt from examination, not even, “zipper negligence.”
When reading Sublime Physick, the yin-yang symbol comes to mind, as Madden cites academic thinkers and essayists from generations past, alongside contemporary popular icons, usually of the musical variety, specifically his personal favorites like John Lennon and Geddy Lee.
Readers familiar with Madden’s work, particularly Quotidiana, will recognize his sharp ability to capture ordinary dialogue and re-cast it into observations that reveal cosmic, arguably universal truths. In conversation with a recently discovered- and disparate – distant cousin who expresses his desire to be happy, or at least, satisfied:
After nearly half an hour, Kevin explained, “I kinda gotta go. I got my mom looking at me, staring about dinner being ready,” but we kept talking for several more minutes, mostly about my plans for the essay (I really didn’t know what I’d do with, I said; I’d figure that out in the writing) and about Kevin’s current limbic state. “I’m just really in the search mode,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure my *** out, to be honest. I just want to be good with ***. That’s all I’m looking for. I just want to be content.