Additional Book Information
Series: New York Review Books
Publication Date: March 23, 2021
Gallery of Clouds
Gallery of Clouds opens in New York City with a dream, or a vision, of meeting Virginia Woolf in the afterlife. Eisendrath holds out her manuscript to her, an infinite moment passes, and Woolf takes it and begins to read. From here, in this act of magical reading, the book scrolls out in a series of reflective pieces connected through an association of metaphors and ideas. Golden threadlines tie each part to the next: a rupture of time in a Pisanello painting; Montaigne's practice of revision in his essays; a segue through Vivian Gordon Harsh, the first African-American librarian in the Chicago public library system; a fragment of Spenser; a brief history of prose style; a meditation on the active versus the contemplative life; the story of Sarapion, a fifth-century monk; the persistence of the pastoral; image-making and thought; reading Willa Cather to her grandmother in her Chicago apartment; the deviations of Benjamin's "scholarly romance" The Arcades. Eisendrath's wondrously woven hybrid work extols the materiality of reading, its pleasures and delights, with wild leaps and bounding grace.
What is this mysterious harmony that a lamp has with a book? It is as if the lamp knew and shared in the silence that lies at the heart of the book, beneath all the eager little words." So writes Rachel Eisendrath in this transporting marvel of a book, a wide-ranging demonstration of the art of making thought out of dreamy inquiry and reflection. An underground spring in the book--if such can be said of a gallery of clouds!--is a deft, unforgettable portrait of the child and the girl the author was who dwell so delightedly in her still, avid for insight and all the crucial refreshment that beauty, literature and art bring to life. I'll be sharing Gallery of Clouds with lucky friends starting now and for the rest of my life.
Gallery of Clouds is a rare and singular achievement. An ecstatic meditation on Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, it is also a space - one concise and yet vast, precise and yet its effects are indeterminable - where subtle echoes between gestures in art and literature are revealed and attended to by an exceptional mind. Rachel Eisendrath is a close and astute reader who possesses great learning and vivid gifts, all of which she wears lightly. Her ideas are communicated with eloquent clarity and directness. Her authority is powered by doubt and a restless searching, one troubled by timeless questions concerning the meaning of things, the uncertainty of those meanings, and the fleeting and connected nature of life. Soon one realises that what is taking place here is a sort of an experiment in living and reading. With such acute lucidity and intellectual elegance, Eisendrath has mapped out an unlikely geography of feeling and ideas that culminates into a passion for the life of the mind and the life of books.