Reviewers have said this about Ultra-Talk:
"Over the course of 16 previously published essays, ranging from extensive literary analyses to relatively brief reviews, poet and critic Kirby (The Ha-Ha) explores subjects as diverse as Walt Whitman, NASCAR, and stripping, utilizing his extensive literary knowledge throughout. Kirby's general thesis is that the best art is art that's appreciated by both the elite and the general public over a long period of time, and in his academic essays about Shakespeare and Whitman, he demonstrates this bridging with an effortless combination of anecdote and quotation."
-Publishers Weekly, March 25, 2007
"Johnny Cash and Sicily. Little Richard and John Keats. Manichaeism and John Ashcroft. Although most of us cannot see the line that connects these seemingly unrelated subjects together, David Kirby can. Ultra-Talk, a collection of essays by the Florida State University English professor, poet and book reviewer, explores how timeless cultural phenomenons such as religion, music or food relate to subjects some may consider totally off-beat-NASCAR, the mafia or even high school garage bands. . . .
"'I think of anything I write as going for a walk,' Kirby says. 'You leave your house, and you head out. You don't know whether you are going to go left or right. You come back, and you've had all of these experiences, but you end up where you started from. It all makes sense though because it's been organized by that loop. My task for myself as a writer is to get that reader to go on as long and varied a walk as possible, but I want them to get that sense that they will come back safely.'
"Ultimately, Kirby refuses to limit himself to one of his many titles-New York Times book reviewer, journalist, English professor, author of 22 books, poet and traveler-because, as his writing style suggests, they all are part of that all-encompassing loop that is David Kirby. 'I don't see any seams or boundaries between anything that I do because I'm an omnivore,' he said. 'I love art. I love music. I love to eat and to cook. I love to throw parties and go to parties. I don't want to go up to heaven and God say 'Why didn't you take advantage of all the gifts I gave you?' I'm a hungry guy.'"
-Tony Kim, Ocala Star-Banner, April 22, 2007
"Reading one of David Kirby's books is a bit like getting lucky with your seat row and number on an airplane. You'd hate to be stuck next to the chatty mom with the whiny baby or the roly-poly businessman who takes up the entire armrest.
"But bringing along a copy of Kirby's newest collection of essays, Ultra Talk: Johnny Cash, The Mafia, Shakespeare, Drum Music, St. Teresa of Avila and 17 Other Colossal Topics of Conversation, or his latest collection of new and selected poems, The House on Boulevard St., would be a bit like sitting next to your funniest and most loquacious friend. That's the one who keeps you entertained for hours because you're not exactly sure what's going on inside his head, or where he'll take you next."
-Casey McIntyre, Creative Loafing, April 18, 2007
"If David Kirby's book of essays on various cultural topics proved nothing else, it would prove that a book can be judged by its index. In the case of Ultra-Talk: Johnny Cash, the Mafia, Shakespeare, Drum Music, St. Teresa of Avila, and 17 Other Colossal Topics of Conversation, the index borders on fabulous, ranging from Verlaine to John Travolta, from Kafka to West Side Story to Wittgenstein to Yosemite Sam. An index of half its length would make any culture-lover swoon, but Kirby possesses an extraordinary talent for collecting ideas, personalities, and physical details. . . .
"Kirby's greatest accomplishment is his insistence on a non-linear, overabundant progression of culture. In this task, his cast of characters proves its mettle, allying nationalities, time periods, and various spiritual, historical, and cultural realities with each other. For instance, Kirby compares Walt Whitman rather convincingly to the ancient Hebrew writers of the Psalms, and to the psychedelic rockers of the '60s. Kirby proves the cultural point closest to his heart-the universality and democracy of genius. . . .
"All of Kirby's essays retain this egalitarian sentiment, but never hypocritically so. He talks frankly about life as an intellectual, about living and writing in Paris and Florence, and about signing a contract with CBS. . . .
"In the end, Kirby's status as a poet powers him through this ambitious collection of tirades, elegies, and investigations. Not all of his subjects are automatically fascinating in a scandalous, pop-culture way, but in every case his genuine research and enthusiasm thoroughly wins us over."
-Meg Hurtado, Verse, May 11, 2007
"Most of these compositions are a compelling blend of personal essay and literary or cultural criticism; they manage to both entertain and inform, which is a difficult task. Each essay reaches farther than the typical personal essay-start with a hook-y personal anecdote, then move outward toward some larger truth about life or human nature-and attempts not only to contemplate big questions, but also to educate readers in the process. I found Kirby's explorations of Dante, Whitman, Shakespeare and Dickinson fascinating."
-Sarah Hudgens, Feminist Review, July 5, 2007