Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Moon, Come to Earth

I had not expected it until November, but Philip Graham's new book The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon is now available from the University of Chicago Press. This book, as its subtitle explains, consists of a series of essays chronicling events and experiences during a year that Philip and his family spent in Lisbon. And, like the very best travel writing does, it combines the vividly sensory and particular (the book begins with the look and smell of real sardines) with a cumulative wisdom and perspective that one arrives at via the experience of dislocation.

Here is the book description available at the University of Chicago Press website: "A dispatch from a foreign land, when crafted by an attentive and skilled writer, can be magical, transmitting pleasure, drama, and seductive strangeness.

In The Moon, Come to Earth, Philip Graham offers an expanded edition of a popular series of dispatches originally published on McSweeney’s, an exuberant yet introspective account of a year’s sojourn in Lisbon with his wife and daughter. Casting his attentive gaze on scenes as broad as a citywide arts festival and as small as a single paving stone in a cobbled walk, Graham renders Lisbon from a perspective that varies between wide-eyed and knowing; though he’s unquestionably not a tourist, at the same time he knows he will never be a local. So his lyrical accounts reveal his struggles with (and love of) the Portuguese language, an awkward meeting with Nobel laureate José Saramago, being trapped in a budding soccer riot, and his daughter’s challenging transition to adolescence while attending a Portuguese school—but he also waxes loving about Portugal’s saudade-drenched music, its inventive cuisine, and its vibrant literary culture. And through his humorous, self-deprecating, and wistful explorations, we come to know Graham himself, and his wife and daughter, so that when an unexpected crisis hits his family, we can’t help but ache alongside them.

A thoughtful, finely wrought celebration of the moment-to-moment excitement of diving deep into another culture and confronting one’s secret selves, The Moon, Come to Earth is literary travel writing of a rare intimacy and immediacy."

And here, for your even more immediate reading pleasure, is an interview with Philip recently conducted by the mighty Oronte Churm in his Inside Higher Ed blog "The Education of Oronte Churm." Philip has his own author website, too, where you can find more information about the book as well as various further musings--definitely worth a visit.

Congratulations, Philip!

Late update: there was a nice piece on The Moon, Come to Earth in the Chicago Tribune this week. You can find it here.

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