cover image The Other Walk: Essays

The Other Walk: Essays

Sven Birkerts. Graywolf, $15 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-55597-593-7

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" %E2%80%94to 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.)