"David Kirby has intensified his critical practice and enlarged his poetic focus; in Ultra-Talk he writes a kind of essay after Montaigne in which every book he has read, every country he has visited, every class he has taught, every phrase of his pillow-talk with his wife trembles beneath the zippy surface of his prose. He charges each sentence with the Whole Man and gives us in his lucubrations what must be called Post Criticism, an original genre by which I mean something very old, something to do with the origins of thinking and feeling rather than with the assault on mere judgment. It is an abrupt and sometimes chastening experience to be necessarily inside this mind, to be force-fed this sensibility. I read, I listen, I love."
Kirby turns his critical eye to subjects that have been studied and written about, sought after avidly, discussed passionately, and even resisted vigorously around the world. Auto racing, Dante, folk music, food, Leonardo da Vinci, films, poetry, religion, striptease, television, and the internet are just some of the topics he examines. In Rome, heads of state kneel before Bernini's statue of Saint Teresa in ecstasy, says Kirby, and so do people who can't read. And everyone watches TV.
Ultra-Talk pays homage to the work of two towering writers and critics. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Giacomo Leopardi both stated that a book was valid only if it had been accepted by both an intellectual elite and a vast public. Kirby would have added a second requirement: that the book's—or cultural monument's—popularity must have traction over time. By standing on the shoulders of Goethe and Leopardi, Kirby offers a way to read, see, and savor a post-theoretical worldview that everybody can share.
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