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What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World Hardcover – August 14, 2012
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From the Back Cover
An evocative and captivating collection of essays on writers, place, poetry, and photography—with accompanying photos throughout—from Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Robert Hass
Renowned for his magisterial verse, Robert Hass is also a brilliant essayist. the New York Times hailed him as a writer who "is so intelligent that to read his poetry or prose, or to hear him speak, gives one an almost visceral pleasure." Now, with What Light Can Do, Hass's first collection of essays in more than twenty-five years, the lauded author returns to and enlarges the territory of his critically acclaimed and much-loved collection Twentieth Century Pleasures, recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award.
These acute and deeply engaging essays are as much a portrait of the elegant thought processes of an unconventional and virtuoso mind as they are inquiries into their subjects, which range from meditations on how we see and treat the earth to the relationship between literature and religion, from explorations of the works of writers as diverse as Korean poet Ko Un, Wallace Stevens, Cormac McCarthy, and Anton Chekhov to the ways in which photography—much like an essay—embodies a sustained act of attention.
A perceptive and evocative mixture of memory, philosophical interrogation, and criticism, the essays in What Light Can Do, finely attuned to the pleasures and pains of being human, are always grounded in the beauty of the material world and its details, and in the larger political and social realities we inhabit.
Top Customer Reviews
In a week when Sharon Olds won the TS Eliot prize for poetry I re-read an essay sub-titled 'Poor Monkeys and the White Business in the Trees'. It's a thoughtful discussion of autobiographical poetry about families. Hass points out that it was a new subject when Robert Lowell published 'Life Studies' in 1959. 'It is a fact,' Hass observes, 'that [you] can learn nothing about the aunts or the grandmothers of John Donne, Thomas Traherne, Anne Finch, Alexander Pope... John Keats, Emily Dickinson or Robert Browning' from their poetry. He also feels that it may be a particularly American phenomenon. 'American poetry is full of aunts and grandmothers, but French poetry isn't, or Serbian poetry or Arabic or Brazilian or for that matter, English poetry'. Robert Hass takes us through some theories of Why this might be, which I found fascinating.
One of the essays is a deliberation on war - particularly the Iraq war. 'How did this happen?' Hass asks. 'And why are ordinary Americans not being driven crazy by it?' The answer he supplies is 'fear, anger and ignorance'.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
These are engaging essays: the author's criticisms are well informed. But there's a kind of faux humility about them that grates in the end. Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by A Customer
Bought for my wife, based on review in Wall Street J. Not at all what she had expected. Very disappointed.Published on February 24, 2013 by Leonard R. Daniel
Heavy sledding, did not hold my interest. Got this as a gift, which I love, but I did not live up to the gifter's estimation of me.Published on January 22, 2013 by jack swanzy
Robert Hass uses his childhood memories and his extensive knowledge of literature to explore art and imagination. The book is hard to put down.Published on January 2, 2013 by Brian M. Biggs