September 2, 2008 "State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America" To Be Subject of Library Program

Matt Weiland, Jacki Lyden, Joshua Clark and Edward P. Jones to Discuss Their Stories; Accompanying Film to Premiere

Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara, Center for the Book (202) 707-9217

Fascinating essays on the 50 United States and the District of Columbia—“what we don’t know about them”—have been gathered into a new volume called “State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America,” inspired by the great Federal Writers’ Project guidebooks to the states that were produced in the 1930s and ’40s.

The book will be the subject of a program sponsored by the Center for the Book as part of its Books and Beyond author series. The program will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 16, at 6 p.m. in the Library of Congress Montpelier Room, sixth floor of the Madison Building, at First Street and Independence Ave. S.E. The program is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Co-editor Sean Wilsey calls “State By State” “a metaphorical road trip across the United States.” Co-editor Matt Weiland asks, “What are each state’s particularities and idiosyncracies, prejudices and biases, beauty marks and moles, cadences and jokes?” Although it doesn’t promise comprehensiveness, “State by State” does promise to capture “something fundamental and distinctive about each state.”

Sixteen contributors to “State by State” are featured in the book’s accompanying film, which will have its national premiere during this program.

In addition to Matt Weiland, contributing authors Jacki Lyden of National Public Radio, Joshua Clark and Edward P. Jones will participate in this event. The writers who have contributed to this book are as diverse as the nation they describe:

  • Jonathan Franzen (“The Corrections”), writes about “New York state’s publicist” and other “officials”
  • Anthony Bourdain (chef, author and host of television’s “No Reservations”) writes of a New Jersey fumigation truck
  • S.E. Hinton tackles the Oklahoma high school where she wrote “The Outsiders”
  • Dagoberto Gilb (“The Flowers”) goes to the Iowa cornfields to report the experiences of Mexican immigrants
  • Edward P. Jones (“The Known World”) makes a persuasive case for D.C. statehood
  • Joshua Clark (“Heart Like Water”) goes ghost hunting in New Orleans
  • Alexander Payne (director of the film “Sideways”) tells us why Nebraska is the center of the universe
  • Alexandra Fuller (“The Legend of Colton H. Bryant”) discovers that Wyoming mosquitoes stand flat-footed.

“State by State” will be available for sale ($29.95) and signing.

The Library of Congress, the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, is the world's preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled collections and integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s Web site and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized Web site at

The Center for the Book was created in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books and reading. For information about its programs, publications and national reading-promotion networks, visit


PR 08-149
ISSN 0731-3527