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On Grief and Reason: Essays

4.39 of 5 stars 4.39  ·  rating details  ·  210 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Joseph Brodsky was a great contrarian and believed, against received wisdom, that good writing could survive translation. He was right, I think, though you have to wonder when you see how badly his own work fared in English. But then perhaps the Russians hadn't expelled a great poet so much as exposed us to one of their virulent personality cults. Yet Brodsky's essays are ...more
Paperback, 504 pages
Published April 10th 1997 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1995)
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The Shipping News by Annie ProulxThe Constant Gardener by John le CarréThe Lovely Bones by Alice SeboldSaying Goodbye by Mike O'MaryA Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Books About Grieving
12th out of 41 books — 22 voters
Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster WallaceNaked by David SedarisSex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck KlostermanMe Talk Pretty One Day by David SedarisBird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Best Book of Essays
46th out of 82 books — 76 voters

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Jun 21, 2008 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: essays
"A substantial part of what lies ahead of you is going to be claimed by boredom."

Imagine starting a commencement address with this line? This is what Brodsky did at Dartmouth, 1989, with his essay "In Praise of Boredom," just one of the brilliant pieces included in his collection On Grief and Reason. (I'd gladly attend more commencement ceremonies at our own campus if we got to hear brutally frank but entertaining and existential addresses like Brodsky's!)

In a nutshell, he argues that college d
Harper Curtis
Brilliant, witty, entertaining.
Makes great reading for anyone who is a little bit down in the dumps. Here's a gem from "In Praise of Boredom" (p.111), a commencement address (!) in which Brodsky demonstrates how boredom teaches us to understand time and our own utter insignificance:

"...what's good about boredom, about anguish and the sense of the meaninglessness of your own, of everything else's existence, is that it is not a deception.

"...Try to embrace, or let yourself be embraced by, boredom
On Grief and Reason is a collection of twenty-one essays, all but one written since 1986. Of these, some are without question on a par with the best of his earlier collection, Less Than One. In “Spoils of War,” for instance—an essay classical in form, light in touch—Brodsky continues the amusing and sometimes poignant story of his youth, using those traces of the West—corned-beef cans and shortwave radios as well as movies and jazz—that found their way through the Iron Curtain to explore the mea ...more
Ariki Brian
Hands down the most enjoyable book I have read,
I have had a wry wee grin on my face for the past week because of Brodsky.
He turns a cocophany of thoughts into a clear narrative that will had me wondering if I should have
Studied literature and philosophy instead of engineering.

Thanks for recommending this goodreads
( I realize that i im a Mongol addressing a algorithm :-))
Jay Daze
Twenty-one essays by the Nobel prize-winning poet. Two of the essays are his Noble lecture and his acceptance speech, and many of the other essays were written for occasions or lectures. What makes these essays stick is that Brodsky has the knack of living in his prose pieces and imbuing them with his warm, intelligent personality. I would have payed money to eavesdrop on the parents walking out after listening to his 1989 Dartmouth College commencement address, "In Praise of Boredom". Good luck ...more
Before I knew Brodsky was a poet I was drawn to the thoughtful and expansive essays in Less Than One. The essays in this book are fewer in number but are no less universal in their understanding. The essays on life in the Soviet Union and the titular essay are among the most moving prose I've ever read.
Nov 30, 2013 H added it
Shelves: poets-prose

To be lost in mankind, in the crowd--crowd?--among billions; to become a needle in that proverbial haystack--but a needle someone is searching for--that's what exile is all about. Put down your vanity, it says, you are but a grain of sand in the desert. Measure yourself not against your pen pals but against human infinity: it is about as bad as the inhuman one. Out of that you should speak, not out of your envy or ambition. (25)

For the other truth of the matter is
ugh the misconception that Marcus Aurelius did something out of the ordinary in not adopting an heir really irritates me (#my worthless degree) but pedantry aside, a good collection. The style gets a bit annoying at times (he keeps pausing to ask you to bear with him and he does repeat himself & digress quite a lot), but there are some very lovely passages on time, antiquity, exile, boredom etc.

The essay on Frost is wonderful - if only poetry was explained that well in school... I didn't qu
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Feb 21, 2014 Jenny (Reading Envy) marked it as to-read
Shelves: books-on-books
Has the speech "How to Read a Book"
Tsvetoslav Shalev
I must admit that I bought this book without doing much research. And as a man who has little interest in ancient authors and poetry in general, I found myself skipping pages. Still, one should really appreciate the genius of Joseph Brodsky. A must-read for anyone who loves literature.
Good stuff. Several of the essays are very insightful. He is also well read and he comes at things from a different angle sometimes. I appreciated his suggestion that we should evaluate political candidates on which books they have or have not read. Overall, a good collection.
Clauber Torres
Eu nunca liguei muito pra ensaios até conhecer Joseph Brodsky. A sua excelente escrita, aliada a um senso crítico pertinente e um bom senso de humor me fizeram repensar o ensaio como uma leitura obrigatória para acompanhar o pensamento sobre determinada época.
Ajai   Mangattu
It s a wonderful collection of prose on poetry and literature in general. There s his nobel lecture and acceptance speech. A homage to Marcus Aurelius and essays on Hardy,Frost and Rilke r exceptionally imaginative and enchanting.
Some of the essays were wonderful - particularly "Spoils of War" about his youth in Russia, and his insightful title essay on Frost - and Brodsky is always a master stylist. But I grew tired of his rather cynical outlook.
Stan Berning
I really can't review or give this book a rating. It is simply not my cup of tea; too dense and academic. The man can certainly write but I could never read him.
Alla Polyakova
a couple of the essays were great, but the majority spoke to a particular audience that the speech was intended for and really lost me.
I found out about him through the Birkerts book. I enjoyed the essay on boredom and his nobel prize acceptance speech.
So far so good. I enjoy the argument.
Jacob Trinity
the paydirt of literature.
Jun 26, 2013 Polina added it
Shelves: nobel-prize
См Less than one
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  • Selected Writings
  • The Noise of Time: Selected Prose
  • To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays
  • The Second Common Reader
  • Miracle Fair: Selected Poems
  • Lectures on Russian Literature
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  • Theory of Prose
  • Inner Workings: Literary Essays 2000-2005
  • Finding a Form
  • Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935-1938
  • The Imaginary
  • On Poetry
  • The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays
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  • Happy Moscow
  • The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination
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Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky (Russian: Ио́сиф Алекса́ндрович Бро́дский, IPA: [ɪˈosʲɪf ˈbrot͡skʲɪj] was a Russian poet and essayist.

Born in Leningrad in 1940, Brodsky ran afoul of Soviet authorities and was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972, settling in America with the help of W. H. Auden and other supporters. He taught thereafter at universities including those at Yale, Cambridge and Michiga
More about Joseph Brodsky...
Watermark Collected Poems in English Less Than One: Selected Essays A Part of Speech To Urania: Poems

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“...boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life--...the lesson of your utter insignificance. It is valuable to you, as well as to those you are to rub shoulders with. 'You are finite,' time tells you in a voice of boredom, 'and whatever you do is, from my point of view, futile.' As music to your ears, this, of course, may not count; yet the sense of futility, of limited significance even of your best, most ardent actions is better than the illusion of their consequence and the attendant self-satisfaction.” 23 likes
“secrecy is a hotbed of vanity” 4 likes
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