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The Ghosts of Birds

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  120 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
The Ghosts of Birds offers thirty-five essays by Eliot Weinberger: the first section of the book continues his linked serial-essay, An Elemental Thing, which pulls the reader into “a vortex for the entire universe” (Boston Review). Here, Weinberger chronicles a nineteenth-century journey down the Colorado River, records the dreams of people named Chang, and shares other fa ...more
Paperback, 212 pages
Published October 11th 2016 by New Directions
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Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
the latest essay collection from wundermensch eliot weinberger, the ghosts of birds collects nearly three dozen disparate pieces (including further entries in his serial essay, an elemental thing) into another literary achievement. weinberger's erudition is breathtaking to behold and he so effortlessly makes each of his subjects seem like the most interesting thing in the world. read, reflect, and repeat.
from "american indias"

but beyond literary history, beyond the many pleasures of the individu
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
The first half of The Ghosts of Birds is a continuation of the serial essay, An Elemental Thing, which is my favorite Weinberger collection. The second half of the book includes a handful of brilliant essays, including Weinberger's take on George W. Bush's memoir, Decision Points, and solid introductions. As always, it's impossible not to be impressed with the scope of Weinberger's learning and his mastery of juxtaposition.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
If you know me, you know that I ask strangers, friends, family, and anyone else I encounter whether or not a crow or a seagull would win in a fight. Now I have literature backing me up -

For the cormorants of the open sea and the cormorants of the rivers and the lakes started a war of all the birds over whose fishing grounds were superior. The sea birds were stronger, the land birds more clever, and the land birds won.

Jim Coughenour
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The first essay – "The Story of Adam and Eve" – summed up everything I knew about the Hebrew myth in a couple pages then astonished me with a book I didn't know existed:
In the 1st century CE, The Life of Adam and Eve may or may not have been written in Hebrew or an undetermined Semitic language. It survives in Greek, Latin, Slavonic, Georgian, and Armenian versions, and was translated or adapted scores of times throughout the Middle Ages.

Weinberger explores the variations from translation to tra
John Hicks
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I bought this book for Weinberger's essay on the I Ching and was not disappointed. There are other fascinating essays here. For example, his treatment of history of the Western interpretation of the Buddha. Some few of these essays are, however, too esoteric even for me.
John LaPine
Mar 20, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a tough one to rate. The first half is largely translations of authors, poems, journals, and mythologies. The second half is mainly book reviews. Weinberger spans large swaths of history, religions, ideological systems, and artistic movements, and he has intensive knowledge of several facets of society. I usually find history dry, but his book reviews are mostly interesting, so this book didn't pick up steam from me until the second half, but I'm glad I stuck with it. his exploration of ...more
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The almost unclassifiable Weinberger is back and stronger than ever. Almost essays, Almost poems, he is one of the very few writers who leave me searching for the words to talk about what he does- which is, by the way, his own searching for words, looking beyond the word.
The few truly great essayists, like William Gass, Guy Davenport, Anne Carson -are a good starting point to reference when thinking of Weinberger's work, but I feel he often transcends them, and the essay itself.

Stephen Spera
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
Half of this book its not essays -- it's short stories. They're OK.

The essays are pretty good, though the one that is a mock review of a book ghostwritten by George W. Bush is the only one that truly stuck with me, as of this this writing about a month after reading.
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
"A young man spends all of his time reading, but he's not very bright and cannot understand what he reads."

A few parts of a few of the essays in part II sour things a bit, I think. Part I is *****.
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A few different times in my life I tried to read "The Golden Bough" straight through, I wish I'd known then about Eliot Weinberger. How can every sentence of an essay on STONES be better than the one before it? Like the blurb on the back says: "who is this guy and how does he know all this stuff??"
Мария Кувшинова
a blink of escapism
Oct 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Weinberger's still got it.
Robbie Maakestad
I <3 Eliot Weinberger.

This is a continuation of "An Elemental Thing," literary criticism, experimental essay, book review - all elevated beyond their form. Exquisite use of fact to elucidate meaning.

Essayistic perfection.
Dec 08, 2016 added it
Recommends it for: anyone with curiosity
Recommended to Richard by: Past experience
Bedtime reading.

I met the author at Brown U around the time he was collaborating with Forrest Gander and later read an interview they shared in BOMB. His style varies with the subject, sometimes poetic, never prosaic, smooth and easy right up to a sudden boulder of insight, information, or plain surprise, rather like river-rafting--"A Journey on the Colorado River [1869]" (pp. 27-42) conveys the idea exactly, making it more than a trope.

This collection held some fascinating moments for me in "A
Douglas Dalrymple
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Weinberger’s pieces are billed as “essays” but I hardly think they count. They’re more often prose poems, catalogs of trivia, miscellaneous observations. His prior collection, An Elemental Thing, I enjoyed quite a lot. The Ghosts of Birds not so much. Weinberger needs to quit trying so hard to be fancy and intellectual.
Oct 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Contrast between his elegant essays on poetry and history and mythical stories and stones and birds with the punch-to-the-head review of George W Bush's Decision Points. Loved it.
Andy Iakobson
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this, Weinberger's got this awesome dryly eclectic style. The 'Changs Dreaming' collection and 'The Ghosts of Birds' poem were my favourite pieces.
Ned Booth
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May 10, 2018
Alison Hiam
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Feb 04, 2017
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Dec 02, 2017
Chris Stokes
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Nov 05, 2016
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May 04, 2017
Gordon Paulsen
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Apr 13, 2017
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Oct 16, 2017
rated it it was ok
Mar 22, 2017
Eduardo Clark
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Apr 19, 2017
Glenn Roberts
May 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A book of essays, poems, and vignettes on many subjects, of many ages. My favorite paragraph is a quote of British poet Herbert Dean on Americans: "One of the most curious characteristics of this people is their complete misunderstanding of democracy. They do not believe in "equality", but in "equality of opportunity." They confess that again & again, with pride, without realizing that "equality of opportunity" is merely the law of the jungle, that they are not egalitarians, but opportunists ...more
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Jun 28, 2017
Matt Rosier
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Oct 22, 2016
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Jan 15, 2018
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Eliot Weinberger is a contemporary American writer, essayist, editor, and translator. His work regularly appears in translation and has been published in some thirty languages.
Weinberger first gained recognition for his translations of the Nobel Prize winning writer and poet Octavio Paz. His many translations of the work of Paz include the Collected Poems 1957-1987, In Light of India, and Sunston
More about Eliot Weinberger

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“Japan: A stranger hands you a stone and asks you to hold it. Puzzled, you take it. The stone grows. And grows until you are crushed” 0 likes
“Young girls would paint themselves like parakeets. Bothersome children are like parakeets. If you dream a parakeet is lying in an oven you may be certain that soon you will die. The shells of hatched parakeets turn into maggots, which turn into lizards, which creep down the throats of sleeping people” 0 likes
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