Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

What Are You Recommending, Susan Stewart?


NBCC members and finalists and winners of our book award were eligible to vote in the winter edition of the NBCC’s Good Reads. Poetry winner and critic Susan Stewart voted for “Descartes’ Loneliness,” by former finalist Allen Grossman. Here’s why:

To recommend Allen Grossman’s Descartes’ Loneliness is like recommending that each reader wake up to the fact that she must wake up every morning and make the world again—because she’s either awake or asleep, and though she will die, language will not, and if she neglects to remember what’s worth remembering, it will disappear. What else can you learn from this book of last things? How to wash your clothes in well water; what to do about Jerusalem; where you can always find Arcadia; and final proof that the power of imagination is stronger than whatever it envisions. As clear and searching as sunlight, this is “the masterwork that comes to mind at the/ final moment, when it is too dark to see…”

Susan Stewart is a MacArthur Fellow and author of “Columbarium,” which won the National Book Critics Circle award for poetry. She is the author of three other volumes of poetry, including The Forest, as well works of essays and criticism, such as Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, which won the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s 2002 Christian Gauss Award for literary criticism.