On the Shoreline of Knowledge: Irish Wanderings

Overview

The carefully crafted, meditative essays in On the Shoreline of Knowledge sometimes start from unlikely objects or thoughts, a pencil or some fragments of commonplace conversation, but they soon lead the reader to consider fundamental themes in human experience. The unexpected circumnavigation of the ordinary unerringly gets to the heart of the matter.

 

Bringing a diverse range of material into play, from fifteenth-century Japanese Zen Buddhism to how we look at paintings,...

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On the Shoreline of Knowledge: Irish Wanderings

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Overview

The carefully crafted, meditative essays in On the Shoreline of Knowledge sometimes start from unlikely objects or thoughts, a pencil or some fragments of commonplace conversation, but they soon lead the reader to consider fundamental themes in human experience. The unexpected circumnavigation of the ordinary unerringly gets to the heart of the matter.

 

Bringing a diverse range of material into play, from fifteenth-century Japanese Zen Buddhism to how we look at paintings, and from the nature of a briefcase to the ancient nest-sites of gyrfalcons, Chris Arthur reveals the extraordinary dimensions woven invisibly into the ordinary things around us.  Compared to Loren Eiseley, George Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Aldo Leopold, V. S. Naipaul, W. G. Sebald, W. B. Yeats, and other literary luminaries, he is a master essayist whose work has quietly been gathering an impressive cargo of critical acclaim. Arthur speaks with an Irish accent, rooting the book in his own unique vision of the world, but he addresses elemental issues of life and death, love and loss, that circle the world and entwine us all. 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Arthur is proof that the art of the essay is flourishing. In his newest (after Words of the Grey Wind), the eloquent Irishman meditates on myriad effects of quotidian life-his mother's coat, a yellow pencil, his father's briefcase, a handful of flower seeds-, and weaves a tapestry of the mundane to ultimately reveal illuminating patterns of thought and understanding. Though Arthur is decidedly Irish-his heritage and homeland feature heavily here-, he traverses a broad range of subject matter, from his mother's signature in a vocal training textbook to a chestnut tree outside Anne Frank's safe-house, and effortlessly draws connections and parallels that resonate beyond the coasts of his Emerald Isle. The author credits memory with having both "a creative as well as a re-creative element;" so too does this book warrant reading and rereading. Many will likely need a dictionary handy while working their way through this diverse collection, but those who persevere will be richly rewarded for their effort and attention.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609381127
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/2012
  • Series: Sightline Books Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 230
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Arthur has published several books of essays, including Irish Nocturnes, Irish Willow, Irish Haiku, Irish Elegies, and Words of the Grey Wind. He lives in Fife, Scotland. 

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Read an Excerpt

It’s hard to explain the exact reasons behind the appeal chestnuts exert, but such explanation isn’t really necessary. Even if it’s interesting to speculate about why, their appeal works on a level that makes understanding automatic, if in the end opaque. This is something instinctual, of the blood. It issues in an immediate sense of empathy, so we can feel in ourselves the gravity of their attraction even if we can’t spell out the fine detail of its operation. I don’t wonder in the least at my daughter—or anyone—wanting to collect them. I only have to look at my own reaction to know why this is. But I’m at a loss to explain—and in the absence of any instinctual empathy, I feel the need for reasons—why this same daughter took such a shine to a tweed coat of my mother’s. She was drawn to it, wanted it, in the way we’re drawn to chestnuts. 

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Going Round in Circles ix

Chestnuts 1

Lists 22

Looking behind Nothing's Door 33

Pencil Marks 50

Kyklos 60

Level Crossing 83

Absent without Leave, Leaving without Absence 96

Relics 106

When Now Unstitches Then and Is in Turn Undone 121

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Briefcase 135

The Wandflower Ladder 156

A Private View 169

Zen's Bull in the Tread of Memory 183

Acknowledgments 201

Notes on the Text 203

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