In this new collection of essays, Henry draws on his 40-year career as an award-winning novelist, memoirist, editor, and teacher, as well as on the works of classical and contemporary literature that have served him as “equipment for living.” He develops a lexicon of 22 abstract terms, including Weather, Time, Handshakes, Privilege, and Empathy. He sifts the layered meanings of each term through research, wit, personal stories, literary quotations, and free association. His inspirations are Stephen Dedalus’s stream of consciousness and Hamlet’s soliloquies, as both in turn are inspired by Montaigne’s essays. Some terms suggest collective wisdom. Some invoke discoveries. Some reveal outmoded agendas and biases, or promise new ones. The adventure is in how, rather than in what, to think; and Henry’s terms of choice are salient to our culture and times, where too often they serve to prevent rather than to challenge original thinking.
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Be warned! The far-ranging notes and essays of Sweet Marjoram are addictive. Once I began reading, I couldn’t stop. I wanted more of Henry’s wit and wisdom, his dazzling, surprising juxtapositions. I wanted to see him keep making the familiar new, and the strange familiar. Whether he’s writing about folly or time or food or meat or envy or appetite, Henry has a gift for making his reader see the world afresh. A delightful and highly original collection.
—Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and The Hidden Machinery
In case anyone is still wondering about the accrued benefits of a lifetime’s reading, teaching, viewing and thinking, DeWitt Henry’s Sweet Marjoram offers the spirited and enjoyable answer. A Shakespearean breadth of interest subjected to a steady inquiring pressure—the reader finds aphorisms for living on every page.
—Sven Birkerts, author of Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age
This book is a tasting. Taste a glass of wine and you discover aromas and flavors. Taste a pastry dipped in tea and you may lose yourself in a flood of memories. Open this book, pore over it, dip into it, and you do both with words and ideas: every page wreaths your mind in images, imaginings, allusions, illusions, and recollections.
—James Harbeck, blogger at Sesquiotica and author of Confessions of a Word Lush