Appropriately, Madden’s title is a manufactured word, which means, according to his website of the same name, “The land of everyday, commonplace things.” According to the first essay, “The Infinite Suggestiveness of Common Things,” Madden first encountered the concept in Spanish, as la vida cotidiana or “everyday life.” Later he searched for a corollary in English, eventually discovering the word quotidian. Like Montaigne, his literary ancestor, Madden essays on the mundane, and tests language, stories, and ideas.
The essays in Quotidiana roll like a drop of water across a surface. The pathway seems erratic, but when the reader looks back, the impulsive movement of Madden’s mind has created a tight form. In each the ordinary becomes a new revelation.
And it all begins linguistically. Madden is a scientist of the word, a clown or coyote, one who plays with words and consequently with the nature of reality. He begins his essay “Remember Death” with the following: “My eleventh-grade language arts teacher, Mr. Lamb, was a Deadhead (former or ongoing, I do not know, nor could I divine the depth of this deadication), so he encouraged my vocal annotations beside many of our class vocabulary words. ‘Rush word!’ I would call out (in my more exclamatory days) when we happened across panacea or somnolent or unobtrusive.” Each essay begins as play with the mundane and ends with finding something powerful. For the last words on his Memento Mori essay, Madden imagines his dead friend’s mourning mother “crossing herself, kissing the silver crucifix hanging about her neck, between the breasts that knew his suck (My Lord and my God, she begins . . .”
The essays are unabashedly spiritual as Madden draws profound insight from quotidian subjects such as hepatitis, laughter, death, garlic, gravity, singing, hepatitis, asymptosy, children, faith, music. Seldom has a Mormon writer had or deserved such national exposure. His essays are in The Best American Spiritual Writing 2007, Fourth Genre, The Best Creative Nonfiction, Mississippi Review, Hotel Amerika, The Iowa Review, and others. Many of our best essayists wrote for other Mormons or westerners: Madden writes for the world.