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On Grief and Reason: Essays
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On Grief and Reason is the second volume of Joseph Brodsky's essays, and the first to be published since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987. In addition to his Nobel lecture, the volume includes essays on the condition of exile, the nature of history, the art of reading, and the idea of the poet as an inveterate Don Giovanni, as well as a homage to Marcus Aurelius and an appraisal of the case of the double agent Kim Philby (the last two were selected for inclusion in the annual Best American Essays volume). The title essay is a consideration of the poetry of Robert Frost, and the book also includes a fond appreciation of Thomas Hardy, a "Letter to Horace, " a close reading of Rilke's poem "Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes, " and a memoir of Stephen Spender. Among the other essays are Mr. Brodsky's open letter to Czech President Vaclav Havel and his "immodest proposal" for the future of poetry, an address he delivered while serving as U.S. Poet Laureate. In his Nobel lecture, Mr. Brodsky declared that "verse really does, in Akhmatova's words, grow from rubbish; the roots of prose are no more honorable" - but his own prose's flowering in these essays gives us thought and language at their noblest.
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Joseph Brodsky (1940-96) came to the United States in 1972, an involuntary exile from the Soviet Union. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987 and served as Poet Laureate of the United States in 1991 and 1992.

Reviews

"English. But then perhaps the Russians hadn't expelled a great poet so much as exposed us to one of their virulent personality cults. Yet Brodsky's essays are interesting. Composed in a rather heroically determined English, clumsily phrased and idiomatically challenged, they are still inventive and alive. There are suggestive analyses of favorite poems by Hardy, Rilke, and Frost in this book, and a moving meditation on the figure of Marcus Aurelius. Though too often Brodsky goes on at self-indulgent length, he usually recaptures our attention with a characteristic aside: 'The fact that we are livingdoes not mean we are not sick.'" --Boston Review "Brodsky has the reputation of being one of the best essayists in the English language, and it doesn't take many pages of reading this new collection to realize why. Whether he's stepping back into his own history, as he does in ('If anybody profited from the war, it was us: its children. Apart from having survived it, we were richly provided with stuff to romanticize'), or giving a commencement address, as in In Praise of Boredom, a metaphysical litany of warning and assurance to a graduating class ('Everything that displays a pattern is pregnant with boredom'), Brodsky shows an extraordinary flair for language. His keen and passionate poet's mind often homes in on unexpected details, as in Alter Ego, a short dissertation on the poet and the subject of love. Brodsky's spectrum on life and art at the end of the century is as wide and varied as his talent for writing. To read these masterful essays is to experience the English language at its finest." --Raul Nino, Booklist English. But then perhaps the Russians hadn't expelled a great poet so much as exposed us to one of their virulent personality cults. Yet Brodsky's essays are interesting. Composed in a rather heroically determined English, clumsily phrased and idiomatically challenged, they are still inventive and alive. There are suggestive analyses of favorite poems by Hardy, Rilke, and Frost in this book, and a moving meditation on the figure of Marcus Aurelius. Though too often Brodsky goes on at self-indulgent length, he usually recaptures our attention with a characteristic aside: 'The fact that we are livingdoes not mean we are not sick.' "Boston Review" Brodsky has the reputation of being one of the best essayists in the English language, and it doesn't take many pages of reading this new collection to realize why. Whether he's stepping back into his own history, as he does in ('If anybody profited from the war, it was us: its children. Apart from having survived it, we were richly provided with stuff to romanticize'), or giving a commencement address, as in "In Praise of Boredom," a metaphysical litany of warning and assurance to a graduating class ('Everything that displays a pattern is pregnant with boredom'), Brodsky shows an extraordinary flair for language. His keen and passionate poet's mind often homes in on unexpected details, as in "Alter Ego," a short dissertation on the poet and the subject of love. Brodsky's spectrum on life and art at the end of the century is as wide and varied as his talent for writing. To read these masterful essays is to experience the English language at its finest. "Raul Nino, Booklist"" "English. But then perhaps the Russians hadn't expelled a great poet so much as exposed us to one of their virulent personality cults. Yet Brodsky's essays are interesting. Composed in a rather heroically determined English, clumsily phrased and idiomatically challenged, they are still inventive and alive. There are suggestive analyses of favorite poems by Hardy, Rilke, and Frost in this book, and a moving meditation on the figure of Marcus Aurelius. Though too often Brodsky goes on at self-indulgent length, he usually recaptures our attention with a characteristic aside: 'The fact that we are livingdoes not mean we are not sick.'" --"Boston Review" "Brodsky has the reputation of being one of the best essayists in the English language, and it doesn't take many pages of reading this new collection to realize why. Whether he's stepping back into his own history, as he does in ('If anybody profited from the war, it was us: its children. Apart from having survived it, we were richly provided with stuff to romanticize'), or giving a commencement address, as in "In Praise of Boredom", a metaphysical litany of warning and assurance to a graduating class ('Everything that displays a pattern is pregnant with boredom'), Brodsky shows an extraordinary flair for language. His keen and passionate poet's mind often homes in on unexpected details, as in "Alter Ego", a short dissertation on the poet and the subject of love. Brodsky's spectrum on life and art at the end of the century is as wide and varied as his talent for writing. To read these masterful essays is to experience the English language at its finest." --Raul Nino, "Booklist"

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