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Rocket and Lightship

Essays on Literature and Ideas

Adam Kirsch (Author)


A collection of essays from a “great poet-critic-intellectual” (Daily Beast).

Adam Kirsch has been described as "elegant and astute…[a] critic of the very first order" (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times). In these brilliant, wide-ranging essays, published over the last eight years in the New Republic, The New Yorker, and elsewhere, Kirsch shows how literature can illuminate questions of meaning, ethics, and politics, and how those questions shape the way we take pleasure in art. In Rocket and Lightship he examines the work and life of writers past and present, from intellectuals Susan Sontag, Hannah Arendt, and Walter Benjamin to novelists including E. M. Forster, David Foster Wallace, and Zadie Smith. Kirsch quotes G. M. Hopkins: "Nor rescue, only rocket and lightship, shone." So shines literature, in these unflinchingly bold and provocative essays—as an illuminating, regenerative, and immortalizing force.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • November 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-393-24346-8
  • 5.9 × 8.6 in / 320 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“It is fashionable today to mourn the paucity of public intellectuals in America. Meet Adam Kirsch, one of the very best literary/cultural critics writing today—a critic in the grand tradition of Edmund Wilson or Lionel Trilling. Rocket and Lightship is a delight to read.” — Marjorie Perloff

““[Kirsch’s] rare literary authority is on full display…It’s a pleasure to be convoyed through Western literature by Kirsch, whose self-assuredness feels more like intellectual comfort than it does coercion.” — Alice Gregory, New York Times Book Review

“Adam Kirsch is one of the best of our cultural and literary critics. Whether he is dispatching the repellent ideology of Slavoj Zizek or reappraising the literary legacy of E. M. Forster, he writes with stunning force and beautiful lucidity.” — Janet Malcolm

“An adventurous critic and essayist of cascading impact… Kirsch’s smart and piquant essays articulate reasons “to be grateful for literature,” even as his whitewater title essay confronts us with the mad futility of our devotion to books.” — Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Kirsch’s writing is rarely overly zesty, it’s lucid, forceful, and clear throughout—he doesn’t wander, he walks.” — Michael Andor Brodeur, Boston Globe

“One of the excitements of reading Kirsch on poetry is the sense that he still holds out this quixotic ambition for the form, never mind the current fashion.” — Christopher Beha, Harper's Magazine

Also by Adam Kirsch All

  1. Book CoverThe Modern Element: Essays on Contemporary Poetry


  2. Book CoverThe People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature


  3. Book CoverThe Wounded Surgeon: Confessions and Transformations in Six American Poets


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