Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weinberger With a New Batch of Essays on the Way

Eliot Weinberger is my favorite living writer. It appears he has a new book of essays coming out this summer via the great publishing house New Directions; now I know what I'll be reading on beaches and under trees this summer. That and Jacques Barzun's biography of Berlioz, possibly...

Anyway, if you don't know about Eliot Weinberger, head over to Amazon and order some of his books of essays: Outside Stories and Karmic Traces might be the best places to start, though all of his output is worth reading. His last book, An Elemental Thing, was probably his most imagistic and "poetic" book so far, full of strange and marvelous tales and hypnotic prose poems. Weinberger's writing has always had a poetic/dreamy strain, but his other collections combine those kinds of essays (many of them historical or mythological reveries written with no stage-setting context, with no hint of an authorial first-person essayist speaking) with more straightforward, recognizable essays about literature, history, culture, and politics. His book What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles is probably the best polemic (really a selection of articles he'd written for foreign newspapers throughout the Bush-Cheney years) about this decade's high crimes: Weinberger throughout is lucid and sharp, and he often writes with a grim gallows humor. 

He's excellent in both of these areas, a 21st century century cross between William Hazlitt and Jorge Luis Borges in the "non-fictions" that Weinberger has so beautifully translated. 

At any rate, can't wait for Oranges and Peanuts for Sale. If you're interested, here's a link to Weinberger introducing and then interviewing the great poet Gary Snyder at the New York Public Library. It's one of those great wandering digressive talks, with Weinberger offering a coruscating introduction, and Snyder radiating warmth, intellect, and good humor and giving excellent readings from Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Spicer, John Keats's "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer," and his own work. Watch if you have time. 

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