BOOK Words from the Dead: Relevant Readings in the Covid Age
By Sean Arthur Joyce
Local author Art Joyce’s method in Words from the Dead is to analyze the Covid Age through great works of literature, poetry and history, using them as a lens through which to focus critical thinking. Even popular culture such as songs and movies—to the extent it relies on the great themes of art—can be a source of deep meaning. History itself began from the storytelling impulse, the basis of narrative. Essays are simply a more direct way of critically addressing the stories we tell each other in a culture. And it’s clear that now more than ever, the narratives we hear in the media are in need of challenging.
Joyce is following in the tradition of great essayists such as Montaigne, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. These writers didn’t see themselves as experts but as insatiably curious intellects using the Socratic method to explore anything that interested them. Words From the Dead helps the reader cultivate a facility for pattern recognition based on the precedents of history and literature. “That is my hope for this book, to bring consolation, critical thinking and clarity to readers devastated in their various ways by the Covid Age,” says Joyce.
Words From the Dead draws on an wide reading list of nearly 50 books, from the 5th century BC to the present. From the ancient Taoist sages Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, through the writers of classic literature, to more recent critical commentators such as Karl Popper, Arnold Toynbee, John Ralston Saul and Michael Rectenwald, Words From the Dead digs deep for its perspectives. Joyce’s 30-year career as a freelance journalist and author of 10 books provides a solid research foundation for the book, with over 600 reference footnotes.
Sean Arthur Joyce is the author of ten books and numerous limited editions, featuring Western Canadian history, poetry, a novel and his latest, Words from the Dead: Relevant Readings in the Covid Age, a collection of essays. Joyce’s poems and essays have appeared in Canadian, American and British literary journals and anthologies.
New Orphic Publishers published three collections of his poetry, The Charlatans of Paradise (2005), Star Seeds (2009), and The Price of Transcendence (2015), the latter edited by Tom Wayman, who calls it “a first class collection.” Joyce’s first novel, Mountain Blues, was published in 2018 by NeWest Press. In 2020 Joyce published Dead Crow & the Spirit Engine with Chameleonfire Editions. The collection explores the intersection of mythic archetype and the narrative long-form poem, with a strongly defined central character. Joyce has also published three books of Western Canadian history. The most recent, Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest: Canada’s Home Children in the West (Hagios Press 2014/Radiant Press 2018), was reviewed favourably by Event literary magazine, Canada’s History, the Vancouver Sun and others. Professor Emeritus of Historical Geography Cole Harris (UBC) has called the book “a significant contribution to Canadian history.”