Everywhere Being is Dancing

By Robert Bringhurst. Gaspereau Press, 345 pp, $31.95, softcover

As befits the author of The Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst’s new collection of pensées is contained within a cover of simple elegance: an oatmeal jacket embossed with a nearly invisible snowflake design and the title rendered in simple script of a fetching Delft blue. This elegance carries over into the book’s contents. Everywhere Being is Dancing: Twenty Pieces of Thinking is an assemblage of well-considered ruminations, each one distinct but also linked by their creator’s deep erudition and plainspoken literary style.

In another sense, though, this soberly designed package can also be considered as something far more festive. Approached with the same keen curiosity and wonder that Bringhurst possesses, it becomes a piñata of insights, a gift bag of cerebral fireworks that will enrapture any active brain.

Consider “The Meaning of Mythology”, which packs a semester’s worth of university-level exploration into just 10 pages. “Because mythologies and sciences alike aspire to be true, they are perpetually under revision,” Bringhurst writes. “Both lapse into dogma when this revision stops. A mythology that has suffered such a fate is often known as a religion.”

This is so true, and so straightforward, that the head spins.

Elsewhere, the Quadra Island–based poet, linguist, and typographer reinvents the Greek philosopher Empedocles as a poetic precursor to the surrealist movement; considers the comparative utility of boats, books, and pottery within the context of good design; and offers a spellbinding translation of “The Origin of Horses”, by the Navaho elder Cháálatsoh (Charlie Mitchell).

Bringhurst reports that he has occasionally been pilloried by academics incredulous of his ability to be, simultaneously, an authority on Greek pottery, modern art, classical music, font design, creative writing, and comparative religion.

In an age of specialization, Bringhurst’s accomplishments are indeed rare. But his gifts are amply manifested in these pages, and in other works such as A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World. Perhaps he’s simply an extraordinary person, one we should be glad to have among us and grateful to read.