Everything Eliot Weinberger writes is a strange gem, jagged and glowing and somehow eternal. This new piece at Harper’s is no exception. I had never heard of Herbert Read, the English writer who is the subject of Weinberger’s profile, but it hardly matters.
In Yorkshire, where Herbert Read was born in 1893 on a remote farm at the western end of the Vale of Pickering, south of the moors and north of the wolds, young girls would pin ivy leaves together and throw them into wishing wells, and supernatural hares could only be killed with pellets of pure silver.
Picking out bits of history and biography and arcana, Weinberger collapses the distance between himself and his subjects with nerdy literary empathy. It’s intellectually bracing and blushingly intimate. Just look at the sentence above. It starts out with a biographical fact, and by the end it’s relating bygone folk beliefs as if they were true. But it works. If you come across any of Weinberger’s essay collections in a bookstore, do what I do and just buy it, no questions asked. He’s always worth it.
This piece is the introduction to The Green Child by Herbert Read, newly reissued by New Directions.
– Brian Hurley