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Released in paperback in 1999 by the now-defunct Open City and praised everywhere in the then-ascendant print press industry (including names that still make waves today like The New Yorker and GQ), David Berman’s first (and only) book of poetry was and is a journey though shared and unreliable memory. Uncannily inspired, Berman’s poems walk through doors into rooms where where one might hear “I can’t remember being born / and no one else can either / even the doctor who I met years later / at a cocktail party” (from “Self-Portrait at 28”), or praise “the interval called hangover / a sadness not co-terminous with hopelessness” (from “Cassette Country”) and “that moment when you take off your sunglasses / after a long drive and realize it’s earlier / and lighter out than you had accounted for” (“The Charm of 5:30”). At that time, Berman was called a modern-day Wallace Stevens and a next-wave John Ashberry, with his own logic, awareness of pop culture and sensitivity to the details of the post-postmodern world in his poems. Alongside his lyrics to a half-dozen infamous Silver Jews records, Actual Air endeared Berman to lovers of poetry, prose, and music alike. Poet James Tate said it best: “It is a book for everyone.” And poet laureate Billy Collins could only add, “This is the voice I’ve waited so long to hear.” The second edition of the hardcover version of Actual Air is limited to 1000 copies. Features of the second edition are: new larger dimensions and enlarged typeface, new dustjacket artwork variant, deluxe cloth boards, updated full-color endpapers, dust-jacket featuring a photo of the artist around the time of publication, and of course the poems that inspired all this fuss in the first place.
David Berman is a poet, singer-songwriter, and the former member of the indie-rock band, Silver Jews.