River of Ink front cover

River of Ink: Literature, History, Art
Thomas Christensen
Cloth, 6 x 9.25 in., 384 pp.,
140 color illustrations, index
ISBN 978-1-61902-426-7
Counterpoint Press, $35.00


About 1616: The World in Motion

“Thomas Christensen’s 1616 is a delight, an adventure, a reading and visual treat of the first order” (Cleveland Plain Dealer). “1616 is a whirlwind tour, taking readers from Istanbul to Manila to Algiers and ­introducing them to ­sailors, royals, and sultans” (Christian Science ­Monitor), a “fresh, deeply ­researched and thoughtfully composed window back in time” (Foreword). It is “a brimmingly generous intellectual feast, lavishly curated by Mr. Christensen — on every page a fresh marvel” (Lawrence Weschler).

“This thoughtful, beautifully illustrated book examines the key events in art, science, war and politics, as well as mass migrations, new modes of trade and women’s emerging roles” (San Jose Mercury News). “A stunning overview of the nascent modern world through a thematic exploration of the year 1616. Christensen interweaves various narratives [and] enhances his excellent explications of backgrounds and settings with dozens of fabulous illustrations” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

“Beautiful and profound” (Gary Snyder), “outstanding . . . meticulous . . . a treasure” (Evan S. Connell, Jr.), “with its stories of restless spirits and restless feet and its truly amazing images from Japan to Persia to Rome, this book will surprise and delight every reader and provide new insights into an interactive early modern world” ( John E. Wills, Jr.).


“Truffle-rich, cumin-exotic, from Mutanabbi Street to Céline's ballets, Gutenberg and the Koreans, a winged sphinx and an iron man and Nur Jahan — oh, and a beturbaned Sadakichi Hartmann — these world-trotting essays make one groovy box of idea-chocolates.”
—C. M. Mayo, author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire

“A world tour of cultural histories, a tour de force of eclectic scholarship, a relief map of the journeys of a restless intellect, Thomas Christensen's River of Ink flows from ancient China to the current Americas with myriad revelations along the way. Christensen is a genial guide to little-known wonders with a wealth of information and a light touch."
—Stephen Kessler, author of The Tolstoy of the Zulus

From the jacket copy:

Thomas Christensen’s 1616: The World in Motion explored a single year in the age of early maritime globalism. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it “a stunning overview of the nascent modern world.” By contrast, River of Ink ranges widely across times and cultures to offer what amounts to a lively global overview of the literary and visual arts.
   The book’s title alludes to the sacking of Baghdad in 1258, when the Tigris ran black with the ink of books flung into the water by Mongol invaders; this incident is discussed in the title essay. Other essays range from the artistic achievements of prehistoric Chinese cultures, to the state of book reviewing in the U.S. today, to the heroic efforts of Afghanis to keep the legacy of their ancient culture alive under the barrage of endless war.
Few writers today are able to shift as easily, in so informed a way, and with such assurance between art and literature, between ancient and modern, between East and West, and between the developed and developing worlds as Thomas Christensen. It is his gift to see the world whole and offer a wealth of connections that are vital to our position as citizens of an ever more rapidly globalizing world.





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By row, left to right, clickable images from the following essays: Top row: "OccupyXmas" (the politics of Christmas), "The Art of Tao" (understanding Taoism).Row 2: "The Nightengale and You" (Spanish poet Jose Angel Valente), "Gutenberg and the Koreans" (did East Asian printing influence the European print revolution?). Row 3: "Discovering Columbus" (Latin American perspectives on Columbus), "The Invention of the Chicano" (how international politics created the Chicano). Bottom row: "The Invention of the Chicano" (how international politics created the Chicano) "Faint Praise" (Book reviewing in the U.S.).

Copyright © Thomas Christensen, 2013