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The Other Walk: Essays

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  99 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Other Walk is a series of autobiographical pieces by the master of reflection and slow time

Throughout his life, Sven Birkerts, one of the country's foremost literary critics, has carved out time for himself--to walk, to swim, to read, to contemplate. Now in his late fifties, he has clocked up many thousands of hours of reflection. It shows in his prose, which proceeds at a
Paperback, 175 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Graywolf Press
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Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My review is published at the Kenyon Review Online:
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Readers read and writers write for a variety of reasons (and actually, most of us read and write for more than one reason). Sven Birkerts's happiest readers will be those with the souls of poets, readers who linger over word choices, and who enjoy small observations, ones that would never be found in a thriller or love story or even a typical memoir.

Consider the beginning of his essay, "Brown Loafers":

Some years ago, before the big operations for heart and cancer that undermined him, long befor
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
From my blog post, "All Souls Essay," which features a few paragraphs of me ruminating on this book.

Last night I gave my Short Story students their paper assignment for the semester and induced a class-wide panic attack. It was kind of fun, especially since I know they are up to the challenge. What caused such panic? My resurrection and reinterpretation of the “All Souls Essay,” except that my students can choose from 4 words, and have 2 months to write t
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Birkerts reflects on memory through the act of remembering; it's a collection of essays on the borderline of memoir and phenomenology.

This is the sort of book you reread every ten years or so. I have a feeling my experience of the book will only deepen with time. Like most essay collections, there were a few misses, but Birkerts' ever-attentive prose was wonderful throughout. It's a treat to read a living author so skilled at crafting a sentence.
Casey Eccles
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great essays. Strong writing and wonderful description.
BW Diederich
Feb 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed about 80% of these, and didn't really hate any of them. I said to a friend that it's the sort of essay collection where I wasn't quite sure why I was reading them beyond just thinking Birkerts seems interesting. He tends to start off on thing A and meanders a bit, before finally settling in to thing Y and really narrowing in. The best essays are the ones that don't meander too far from the start and, to be honest, tended to be the shorter ones. I liked how he wrote about poetry even if ...more
Sep 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I had this book on my "to read" list for a long time. I don't know why I had such a hard time finding a copy of these essays, but it took a good four years to finally unearth one at the library. Highly personalized essays about the author's past and current life (family and friends.) In one essay (Blue Melody) I was interested to find mention of someone I know personally---wasn't expecting it, and I shared that news with the person. "You're in this book!"
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This collection of finely crafted essays explores life in various ways and from various points. Each builds on the one preceding it, revealing a bit more but from a different angle, and each angle revealed only by degrees, like one's view rounding the corner of a building. They are deeply autobiographical - memories of Latvia, young friends and lovers - but also universal: judgments, memory, aging, lost things. The scenes feel chosen, the points and intersections placed with purpose - pointing f ...more
Bryan Parys
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly intrigued by Birkerts' voice here. While I'm typically on the John D'Agata/Maggie Nelson end of the nonfiction/memoir spectrum in terms of emphasis on imagery and lyrical cadence, there's something not only refreshing about Birkerts no-nonsense style, but sublime as well. The events and recollections are written in an informal way ("casual" isn't the right word, as I can only imagine the sweat that someone like Birkerts wrings into his prose, but the effect comes off feeling conversat ...more
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: won-to-read
Rich. Very rich. His essays get inside you and rattle around touching areas that are uncommon. Or at least you thought they were...that no one else thought or felt the same thing you did. Confirms once again that we are more alike that UN-alike. And that there really are other people who think deeply, although to look at them on the street you would not know. He somehow manages to choose just the right word or sequence to capture the nuances of emotion, fully and completely. A very refreshing bo ...more
Jan 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
Birkerts, a literary critic and teacher of some note, here collects an engaging array of personal essays into a single, thin volume that touch on love, literature, parenting, friendship, mortality, family history, and many other topics that would do Montaigne proud. The book has a wonderful cover photo by Lise Metzger, an individual walking on a sandy path in a dry field. He is walking away from the camera, his arms are raised and his raised jacket covers him like a descending curtain with the b ...more
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Sven Birkerts’s THE OTHER WALK is exciting in its complex, elegant sentences and meditations on domestic objects and occasions, climaxed by a masterful essay on fathering, “The Points of Sail.” Here Birkerts frames memories of parenting with his watching from shore as his two sons sail out of sight, and the youngest nearly drowns. In the aftermath, Birkerts reflects with a clarity worthy of Alice Munro, “about how it is between parents and children—between any people who are close, really—how it ...more
Laurie Neighbors
Oct 04, 2013 rated it liked it
I like Sven Birkerts and respect his cultural criticism, but the majority of these essays were unappealing to me, felt trivial in comparison to his other work. They read more like a writer's notebook of exercises than a coherent, well-considered work. If it's well-constructed essays you're craving, try Zadie Smith. And if it's Sven Birkerts your craving, read anything else of his, particularly his book on time in memoir.
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this collection of reflective, calming essays. Each wrapped around something very simple: a moment, a thought or an object and the memories and thoughts stemming from their humble beginnings. The author's writing style is a real treat; it was the perfect bit of fresh, beautiful air.
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
To call these short writings essays seems wrong. They are blasts of memory and some feel foreign and taste bad (youth and drugs and excess), but most, about work and writing and family hit close to home, or close to where I want home to be. Such a lingering over small memories that speak a great deal. The writing makes me want to look at my life with renewed care and resolution.
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
I've been dipping into this collection of essays for the past month. Has given me things to think about, prompted memories, inspired some journal entries of my own. Its a quiet, slow-paced, thoughtful book.
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, memoirs
Love this guy's style and pensiveness. Read this one right after finishing The Gutenberg Elegies.
Nicola Waldron
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
These essays become like friends -- the kind who stay after dinner, who you don't want to let go home.
May 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Very fascinating read. Well written and grips the reader until the end. Won the book through the GoodReads giveaway.
Brigita Jameson
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sven Birkerts is a magnificent writer. I could not put his essays down.
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Other Walk: Essays is a book to carry with you. Not one to shelve. The world needs more of these walks. Slow dow to read. Return and return again.
Sep 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book is well written, and there a couple essays I really liked, but I get the sense that I just haven't lived enough life to fully appreciate what the author is writing about.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed these reflections.
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Apr 06, 2012
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Erik Evenson
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Oct 01, 2011
Cassandra Hepworth
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Oct 22, 2015
Molly Gaudry
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Jul 05, 2014
Joseph Bradbury
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Jul 06, 2014
Cheryl Wright-watkins
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Sep 10, 2011
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Sven Birkerts is an American essayist and literary critic of Latvian ancestry. He is best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies, which posits a decline in reading due to the overwhelming advances of the Internet and other technologies of the "electronic culture."

Birkerts graduated from Cranbrook School and then from the University of Michigan in 1973. He has taught writing at Harvard University