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Wayfaring: Essays Pleasant and Unpleasant Paperback – June 28, 2010
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Long-form book reviews preponderate in Jacobs' new collection, sharing with the nonreviews the character of the essay established, Jacobs says, by the form's virtual inventor, Montaigne. They ramble or, as Jacobs more sensitively puts it, “acknowledge and accept the vagaries of the mind.” Not that they're diffuse; rather, they're pleasantly expansive, now ringing a relevant personal note, here citing an interesting parallel, there pursuing a rewarding tangent. Jacobs disposes them in two parts, one of articles on writing and works of fiction, poetry, and translation, the other of pieces about extraliterary nonfiction. Particular subjects in the first section include the once-thriving practice of keeping commonplace books, the once-current understanding of what invention in literature and philosophy is, Robert Alter's contemporary Bible translations, Samuel Johnson's great English dictionary, and Harry Potter (whom Jacobs loves). Half of the second section focuses on gardening, trees, and the green movement; the other, on church signboards, the nature of friendship, and trends in the Evangelical Christian community, of which Jacobs is one of the most perspicacious and engaging members. --Ray Olson
― Edward Mendelson
author of The Things That Matter
“A good volume of essays is a collection of aesthetically delightful and prismatically informative prose pieces, each short enough to be read at a sitting. There aren’t many such volumes these days, which is a pity. Jacobs’s Wayfaring is one: it exhibits wit, learning, and an ear for the language, and it will give you new loves while deepening those you already have. Do yourself a favor: buy and read.”
― Paul J. Griffiths
Duke Divinity School
author of Intellectual Appetite
“These essays enthrall, enlighten, ennoble, and entertain. There is nothing unpleasant here, so never mind the title. All of these essays are gems, nothing but delight for mind and soul ― and body, too, if one takes into account the therapeutic value of laughter and sheer delight.”
― Carlos Eire
author of A Very Brief History of Eternity and Waiting for Snow in Havana
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The essays in this collection are primarily from "Books and Culture" and "First Things," both outstanding publications.
I ordered this book as soon as it came out and read through it in a few sittings. Jacobs and the editors and Eerdmans did a tremendous job selecting the essays. Together they form a sort of mind map of the author, and one easily grasps how interconnected the themes addressed really are. Environmental stewardship, the importance of story, the craft of writing, the beauty of language--these topics and many others are woven throughout the collection.
Perhaps what really made the collection for me was Jacob's dry wit. The calmly devastating prose of "Do-It-Yourself Tradition," "Blessed are the Green of Heart," "A Relgion for Atheists," and "On the Recent Publication of Kahlil Gibran's Collected Works" is worth the price of admission.
But Jacobs is a multifaceted writer, and the essays like "The Youngest Brother's Tale" and "The End of Friendship" are beautiful and insightful reflections, in their different ways, on what it is to be human.
So buy the book already.