Books for the Ages
By Sven Birkerts
(Graywolf Press, Paperback, 9781555974640, 256pp.)
Publication Date: April 3, 2007
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A new, compelling collection of essays by Sven Birkerts, "one of America's most distinguished, eloquent servants of the poetry and fiction that matter" (Susan Sontag)
Reading, the mind's traffic in signs and signifiers, is the most dynamic, changeful, and possibly transformational act we can imagine. To have read a work and have been strongly affected by it--and then to come back to it after many years--can be a foundation-shaking enterprise. In Reading Life, virtuoso critic and essayist Sven Birkerts examines what it means to return to resonant works of fiction--the books one thinks of "covetously, as private properties," the "personal signposts" of one's inner life. For Birkerts, these include The Catcher in the Rye, Humboldt's Gift, To the Lighthouse, and Lolita. In twelve far-reaching and intimate essays, Birkerts reflects upon his first readings and what later encounters reveal about time, memory, and the murmuring transistors of selfhood.
Sven Birkerts is the author of Readings, The Gutenberg Elegies, and a memoir, My Sky Blue Trades. He teaches at Harvard University and at the Bennington Writing Seminars, and is the editor of Agni. He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts.
"To read Birkerts is to hear (and enjoy hearing) the voice of literary conscience." --Seamus Heaney
"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." --Jonathan Franzen, The New Yorker