How do you read a girl's bare feet, a fallen fuchsia blossom, or the act of throwing a gun into a reservoir's deep water? In this book, critically acclaimed essayist Chris Arthur continues his experiments with this fascinating and flexible literary genre, using it to fashion fourteen exquisitely crafted readings whose lyricism suggests poetry as much as prose. Sometimes reading is meant literally and books are the point of focus; sometimes it's meant metaphorically with the objects and events around us being read. But whether he's considering child prostitution in Paris, Flann O'Brien's great comic novel At Swim-Two-Birds, a whale's tooth, a bayonet, or the poems of Seamus Heaney, common to all of Chris Arthur's readings is a search for the meanings that lie behind the superficialities of ordinary discourse. Winner of the Monroe K Spears Essay Prize, the Akegarasu Haya International Essay Prize and several other awards, this is Arthur's sixth essay collection. His previous books include Words of the Grey Wind, On the Shoreline of Knowledge and Irish Elegies. Visit www.chrisarthur.org to find out more about the author and his writing.
"Few writers today can rival Chris Arthur in his mastery of the traditional essay, that endangered and slow-moving literary species which manages to survive despite the competing pressures of 24/7 journalism and the incessant clamor of everybody's infallible opinions. More interested in the glance than the gaze, the spark than the fire, Arthur - like so many great essayists - takes creative advantage of our strangest faculty: the wandering mind. I found Reading Life enchanting and invigorating, chock-full of those wonderful and surprising insights that come only from an inspired divided attention."
- Robert Atwan, series editor, The Best American Essays
"Arthur is proof that the art of the essay is flourishing."
- Publishers Weekly
"The essay, in Chris Arthur's hands, proclaims its outsider status, its subversive momentum, its effortless inclusivity and freedom from trammels of the imagination, attaining an embodiment which is civilized, idiosyncratic and rare."
- Times Literary Supplement
"The deliberation with which he writes recalls a woodcutter, polishing his creations until they give off a deep, burnished glow."
- Belfast Telegraph