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The Eclipse I Call Father

Essays on Absence

David Axelrod

6 × 9. 224 pages.

2019. ISBN 978-0-87071-969-1. Paperback, $21.95.

In The Eclipse I Call Father: Essays on Absence, David Axelrod recalls a balmy night in May 1970 when he vowed to allow no one and nothing he loves to pass from this life without praise, even if it meant praising the most bewildering losses. In each of these fourteen essays Axelrod delivers on that vow as he ranges across topics as diverse as marriage, Japanese poetry, Craftsman design, Old English riddles, racism, extinction, fatherhood, mountaineering, predatory mega-fauna, street fighting, trains, the Great Depression, and the effects of climate change—accretions of absence that haunt the writer and will likewise haunt readers.

The essays in this collection grew from a ten-year period when the author found himself periodically living and working abroad, wondering why foreign landscapes haunted him more than the familiar landscapes of the inland Pacific Northwest he called home. Each place had a long history of habitation, but at home he was blind, unable to see past the surfaces of things. Axelrod examines many aspects of that phenomenon in these pages, framing surface realities and imagining the scale and scope of that surface, but also trying to sense what is absent or changed, and how, despite its absence, the unseen accretes to ever-greater densities and persists as something uncanny.

Curious, alert, and keenly observant, these essays probe the boundaries between what is here and what is gone, what is present and what is past, in elegant prose. Readers familiar with Axelrod’s poetry will find a new facet of his lyrical gifts, while those encountering his work for the first time will be richly rewarded by the discovery of this Northwest literary talent.

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