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The Other Walk: Essaysby Sven Birkerts
Synopses & Reviews
Other Walk is a series of autobiographical pieces by the master of reflection and slow time
Throughout his life, Sven Birkerts, one of the countrys foremost literary critics, has carved out time for himself—to walk, to swim, to read, to contemplate. Now in his late fifties, he has clocked up many thousands of hours of reflection. It shows in his prose, which proceeds at a refreshingly deliberative pace as it draws the reader into his patterns and rhythms.
In this deeply appealing and engaging collection of essays, Birkerts looks back through his own life, as well as at the generations before him, and ahead at the lives of his children. We read how the writer witnesses his sons frightening sailing accident, how he feels when he encounters his own prose from many years ago, how finding a cigarette lighter or a lost ring releases a cascade of memories. The objects he sees around him—old friends, remembered places—are excavated, their layers exposed.
But most winning of all is the emerging character of Birkerts himself. We come to have great respect for this competitive but deeply loyal friend, the caring father who respects his childrens independence even as he tries to connect with them, the traveler, the onetime bookseller, the writer at all stages of his writing life, and throughout it all, the attentive, passionate reader.
"In 45 short pieces, noted critic and essayist Birkerts (The Gutenberg Elegies) sketches his life with an awareness that 'memory does not obey time lines, but associations.' Creating a web of often offbeat juxtapositions, Birkerts unveils the internal world of a writer as it relates to his family, friends, and career. He turns his attention to such details as a photograph of his son during a visit to Latvia and a missing plastic tape dispenser to explore the memories evoked by an object or event. He puzzles over why his sense of self is not changed when faulty assumptions he made in his youth are corrected. On a family trip to Italy, he has one item on his 'contemplative agenda' — to ponder Saul Bellow, who had recently died. While in Rome, he also unromantically contemplates the Colosseum, standing 'like half a gigantic decaying set of dentures.' More than revealing the insights he obtains through contemplation, Birkerts sheds light on the process of allowing connections to fuel ruminations that lead to a greater understanding of self. Readers will delight in the humor and insights conveyed in these enchanting and well-crafted essays. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Sven Birkerts is the author of eight books, including The Art of Time in Memoir, Reading Life, Readings, and The Gutenberg Elegies. He has taught at Harvard University and currently directs the Bennington Writing Seminars and is the editor of AGNI. He lives in Massachusetts.
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