Hummingbirds Between the Pages by Chris Arthur

The cover to Hummingbirds Between the Pages by Chris ArthurHummingbirds Between the Pages

Chris Arthur

Ohio State University Press (2018)

Chris Arthur’s most recent collection of essays, Hummingbirds Between the Pages, makes a compelling argument on behalf of the universal values of the human animal. Throughout, Arthur displays his gift for taking the humblest of objects in hand or most ephemeral of thought-strands in mind and mining invaluable meaning from a shaft as deep as the imagination. His authorial voice grounds the work in a gentle but unflinching tenor, offering lessons both heartbreaking and life-affirming with the same patient methodology. With time as his muse, Arthur traverses ground riddled with corpses and blooms and celebrates the lessons both provide with the same intellectual fervor.

Modern life can be something of a psychological peril. Depending on where one is born on this planet of ours, the best-case scenario is merely being swept up in the ever-quickening torrent of technological change, the rise of authoritarian pseudo-democracies, and, of course, multiple convergent crises in the forms of peak oil, peak soil, water poverty, and climate change. For even the most geographically privileged, comfort is in short supply and, when found, should be savored as the genuine treasure it represents.

I found comfort in Arthur’s lyrical use of the English language in its fullness to explore the biggest ideas we know. To borrow from Paul Gauguin: “D’où venons-nous / Que sommes-nous / Où allons-nous” (Where do we come from / What are we / Where are we going)? For those who have wished that Fred Rogers could have remained our counselor, but as adults rather than children, Chris Arthur is the very best alternative for which we might hope, and for this editor, that makes Hummingbirds Between the Pages essential reading.

Rob Vollmar is WLT’s book review and online editor.