Cart 0
Gallery of Clouds by Rachel Eisendrath (HC)

Gallery of Clouds by Rachel Eisendrath (HC)

Regular price ₱1,225.00 ₱0.00 Unit price per
A personal and critical work that celebrates the pleasure of books and reading.

Largely unknown to readers today, Sir Philip Sidney’s sixteenth-century pastoral romance Arcadia was long considered one of the finest works of prose fiction in the English language. Shakespeare borrowed an episode from it for King Lear; Virginia Woolf saw it as “some luminous globe” wherein “all the seeds of English fiction lie latent.” In Gallery of Clouds, the Renaissance scholar Rachel Eisendrath has written an extraordinary homage to Arcadia in the form of a book-length essay divided into passing clouds: “The clouds in my Arcadia, the one I found and the one I made, hold light and color. They take on the forms of other things: a cat, the sea, my grandmother, the gesture of a teacher I loved, a friend, a girlfriend, a ship at sail, my mother. These clouds stay still only as long as I look at them, and then they change.”

Gallery of Clouds opens in New York City with a dream, or a vision, of meeting Virginia Woolf in the afterlife. Eisendrath holds out her manuscript—an infinite moment passes—and Woolf takes it and begins to read. From here, in this act of magical reading, the book scrolls out in a series of reflective pieces linked through metaphors and ideas. Golden threadlines tie each part to the next: a rupture of time in a Pisanello painting; Montaigne’s practice of revision in his essays; a segue through Vivian Gordon Harsh, the first African American head librarian in the Chicago public library system; a brief history of prose style; a meditation on the active versus the contemplative life; the story of Sarapion, a fifth-century monk; the persistence of the pastoral; image-making and thought; reading Willa Cather to her grandmother in her Chicago apartment; the deviations of Walter Benjamin’s “scholarly romance,” The Arcades Project. Eisendrath’s wondrously woven hybrid work extols the materiality of reading, its pleasures and delights, with wild leaps and abounding grace.


“From an early age, reading provided Eisendrath with solidity and engagement, a means of inhabiting her own mind ‘with a pose of sufficient complexity and suppleness that it felt real and also could whir along with a certain lightness.’ Her observations appear in episodic fashion, though her erudition and perceptiveness are no pose. She is a gifted stylist, finding surprise around every corner.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Rachel Eisendrath's Gallery of Clouds reads like strings of improvised images in the margins of Sir Philip Sidney's Elizabethan romance Arcadia. Or a diary at times inspired by her muse Virginia Woolf and elevated to an urban essay on the English Renaissance, European art, failed American pastoral dreams, and the dissonances of modernity. Eisendrath's illuminating sketches—wise, changeable, compassionate—resemble Constable's watercolor sky studies with transitory Turneresque bursts of sun between.” —Susan Howe

“‘What is this mysterious harmony that a lamp has with a book? It is as if the lamp knew and shared in the silence that lies at the heart of the book, beneath all the eager little words.’ So writes Rachel Eisendrath in this transporting marvel of a book, a wide-ranging demonstration of the art of making thought out of dreamy inquiry and reflection. An underground spring in the book—if such can be said of a gallery of clouds!—is a deft, unforgettable portrait of the child and the girl the author was who dwell so delightedly in her still, avid for insight and all the crucial refreshment that beauty, literature and art bring to life. I’ll be sharing Gallery of Clouds with lucky friends starting now and for the rest of my life.” —Alice Quinn

Publisher: New York Review Books
ISBN: 978-1681375434
Pages:  160