On the Shoreline of Knowledge: Irish Wanderings

On the Shoreline of Knowledge: Irish Wanderings

by Chris Arthur


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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. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609381127
Publisher: University of Iowa Press
Publication date: 08/15/2012
Series: Sightline Books Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 230
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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. 

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. 

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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