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I don't actually feel qualified to review this book, but it's hard to resist "no customer reviews, be the first", especially when the book's been out for a while and hasn't been reviewed; it would be a shame for this book not to be reviewed. I think I see why no one has yet; it's not easy, you have to pick your battle.
I'm reading it for the second time, and frankly, I didn't really get it the first time. I mean, I UNDERSTOOD it; I wasn't baffled by it or anything, but I just didn't get how great it is, I wasn't as moved by it as this time.
"The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology"-- what the heck does all that mean? Well, I can't explain it, or certainly not in this short space, but I can say that after reading the book (well, one and a half times), I get the title; I see the relationships there, and that's what the book is about. Once you get the title, you don't need the book any more (but you can still enjoy it).
I can't quite make out what Bringhurst does; like the book, he doesn't fit any categories. He's a poet; I don't know if he's an anthropologist or linguist or not, but he seems to know a lot about those fields; and he's an expert on typesetting. The book is a collection of talks he's given, and one of the themes of the book is how various artistic modalities (painting, carving, written literature, oral literature) fulfill the same function (and by the way, I'm choosing my words very carefully, but still not satisfied; you just need to read the book, maybe twice, and if I get that across I've succeeded)-- and how each such modality has its own integrity. The book has its own integrity too, even though it's a diverse collection of originally spoken pieces.Read more ›
If you occasionally despair about the condition of the world, it might seem strange to seek out the curative powers of a linguist rather than an analyst, but that's my advice. This book will cost you less than ten minutes of therapy and will have a more lasting effect. Wherever you start to read among these lectures, you'll be restored to a world full of mystery and beauty.
Jim Harrison, in his introduction, says that Robert Bringhurst's prose "...tends to push at the confines of whatever room you are reading in so that the four corners seem to be much further away than normal." He is exactly right. And often the four corners fall away altogether. Bringhurst reveals a landscape that is luminous, deeply symbolic and saturated with meaning. It is not only the natural world it is--surprise!--your own consciousness joined with it. Consciousness, that fine and rich field that has been so depleted by the stupidity of modern life, suddenly stretches away freely in all directions.
Creativity once again opens outward, and the natural world once again speaks inwardly. Nothing has really changed except your way of perception, but sometimes that means that everything is irrevocably changed. The shift was so slight and so deft that you don't even know by what magic this happiness was achieved.
One of the lectures, called Poetry and Thinking, is so rich with ideas that you will find yourself staring out the window, lost in thought, after almost every paragraph. It's not that the ideas are difficult or dazzlingly intellectual; it's that they are so simple and true and so worthy of contemplation. You stare into space, and space stares back. Space is nothing you will want to take for granted.Read more ›
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Bringhurst's writing is thickly layered, exquisitely crafted, sobering, humorous, compassionate, dismissive, succinct, essential, humble and humbling. As earlier reviewers have said, it seems impossible to actually write about, only to point towards, as in Zen (at least for we unprofessional writers). I've read most of his published work and can't come up with a complaint that he doesn't undo with some other piece. I suppose he may never be Mainstream, at least in his lifetime, if that can be considered a flaw.
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