Synopses & Reviews
combines the best of Sven Birkerts's previously published criticism with vital new essays. A dazzling writer whose clarity, rigor, and far-flung intellectual curiosity have been widely praised, Birkerts the literary critic is in top form in these pages. Whether discussing Elizabeth Bishop or Don DeLillo, Rilke or Kerouac, Keats or The Great Gatsby
, he brings fresh insight, sharp thinking, and reflective sensitivity to each of his subjects.
A brilliant cultural commentator, Birkerts also addresses broader, more associative topics, such as biography and the enigma of poetic inspiration, contemporary nostalgia, our modern sense of time, and the future of the creative spirit. As Jonathan Franzen wrote in The New Yorker, "Birkerts on reading fiction is like M.F.K. Fisher on eating or Norman Maclean on fly casting. He makes you want to go do it." This is writing about reading at its best.
"To read Birkerts is to hear (and enjoy hearing) the voice of literary conscience."—Seamus Heaney
"Expansive and eclectic and laserous and lucid and impassioned and heartlessly smart. Birkerts is the most interesting and persuasive critic in the U.S. today."—David Foster Wallace
"Whether he is meditating on the new media technology, discussing his own failings, decrying post-modernism, or simply critiquing a new novel, Birkerts is a joy to read. The sincerity of his ideas shines through on every page, and his self-effacing candor is a refreshing change from the ironic critical stances that seem to dominate these days . . . Whether or not you agree with Birkerts's positions, you will find yourself ruminating on his themes long after you have finished reading."—Booklist
"Some of the most finely wrought, and deeply considered, criticism being written today."—Publishers Weekly
One of the pivotal critics of our times champions the creative spirit in an age of intense distraction, tackling such subjects as manufactured nostalgia and commercialism.
About the Author
is also the author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
. He teaches at Mount Holyoke College, is a member of the core faculty of the Bennington Writing Seminars, and lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
The Millennial Warp
Sense and Semblance: The Implications of Virtuality
The Idea of the Internet
Walking after Midnight
Only God Can Make a Tree
Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man; or, Why I Can't in Good Conscience Write about Noam Chomsky
An Open Invitation to Extraterrestrials
Biography and the Dissolving Self
The Grasshopper on the Windowsill
States of Reading
Against the Current
Reading and Depth of Field
"Poetry" and "Politics"
Running Out of Gas
This Year's Canon
When Lightning Strikes
On a Stanza by John Keats
Rainer Maria Rilke
Atmospheres of Identity: Elizabeth Bishop
The Leaning Umbrella: A Reflection on Flaubert
A Gatsby for Today
Destinies of Character
Don DeLillo's Underworld