An Elemental Thing (New Directions Paperbook)
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Internationally acclaimed as one of the most innovative writers today, Eliot Weinberger has taken the essay into unexplored territories on the borders of poetry and narrative where the only rule, according to the author, is that all the information must be verifiable.
With An Elemental Thing, Weinberger turns from his celebrated political chronicles to the timelessness of the subjects of his literary essays. With the wisdom of a literary archaeologist-astronomer-anthropologist-zookeeper, he leads us through histories, fables, and meditations about the ten thousand things in the universe: the wind and the rhinoceros, Catholic saints and people named Chang, the Mandaeans on the Iran-Iraq border and the Kaluli in the mountains of New Guinea. Among the thirty-five essays included are a poetic biography of the prophet Muhammad, which was praised by the London Times for its "great beauty and grace," and "The Stars," a reverie on what's up there that has already been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and Maori.
counterfeit tigers are recognizable, for they have no tails. 13: THE HIDDEN SPAN The Taoist universe is an infinity of nested cycles of time, each revolving at a different pace, and those who are not mere mortals pertain to different cycles. Certain teachings take four hundred years to transmit from sage to student; others, four thousand; others, forty thousand. It is said that Lao Tzu, the author of the Tao Te Ching, spent eighty-one years in the womb. Taoist ritual begins with the
the gods above and below, were meant to see was a map of their world. There seems no doubt that the radiating centers are related to the ceque system, practiced by the Inkas, first described by Pedro de Cieza de León, a foot soldier who arrived in Peru fifteen years after Pizarro, and recently decoded by R. T. Zuidema. The Inkas, like many cultures, considered themselves the center of the universe: their name for their country was the Land of the Four Quarters, Tawantinsuyu. But unlike other
until it rotted, and as the ceremony had been performed year after year, that part of the lake was a forest of dead trees. The priests took the girl from the litter, slit her throat with a small knife used for killing ducks, let her blood flow into the water, and then threw her into the whirlpool, with gifts of jewels, stones, necklaces, and bracelets. In silence, canoes glided through the dead trees home. II. “The image is not an idea.” In 1914, Ezra Pound names the tendency of certain
plane of differentiated phenomena—it is still difficult to understand why it should manifest itself materially in the form of slowly moving balls of fire.” Han Shan Te-ch’ing was living in seclusion on the Northern Terrace. One day in 1575, as he was cooking rice porridge, he saw “a great radiant jewel, perfectly clear and still, like a huge round mirror, which reflected in its center the mountains, rivers, and the great earth.” Doubt disappeared; everything became clear within and without; he
animal. Beans are maggots and maggots are beans. If you dream you are writing, you’ll be bitten by a snake. If you dream of a lake, it is nothing. If you dream of a frog, it is nothing. If you dream of a flower, it is nothing. If you dream of heaven, it is nothing. If you dream of leaves, it is nothing, but if the leaves are shaking in the wind, grasshoppers will eat the corn. If you dream of fog, people are coming who are sad and ill. If you dream you know something, you do not know it.