Graywolf Press, Paperback, 9781555972837, 274pp.
Publication Date: January 1, 1999
"Readings" 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