The Ice Harp

240 pages

Trade Paper

List Price US $17.99
ISBN: 9781954276178


ISBN: 9781954276185

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“In The Ice Harp, Norman Lock deftly takes us into the polyphonic swirl of Emerson’s mind at the end of his life, inviting us to meet the man anew even as the philosopher fights to stop forgetting himself. Who will I be when the words are gone, the great thinker wonders, and how will I know what is right? I gladly asked myself these same impossible questions on every page of this remarkably empathetic and deeply moral novel.”

Matt Bell, author of Appleseed and Refuse to Be Done

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“Here is Emerson unleashed—caustic, brilliant, befuddled, wrangling with the living and the dead. Delights of language and character shine on every page of The Ice Harp as Emerson confronts his own humanity.”

Victoria Redel, author of Before Everything and Paradise

“What troubled Emerson still troubles us today, as Norman Lock makes clear. . . . A harrowing novel.”

New York Sun

“Lock’s latest in his luminous American Novels series . . . provides countless memorable turns of phrase, and it is the rare paragraph that does not inspire underlining as Lock explores memory, mortality, and the passage of time.”

Booklist (starred review)

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“An elegiac, powerful book about a thinker’s limitations.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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“A fascinating and haunting novel, The Ice Harp chronicles the vulnerable mortality of an American genius.”

Foreword Reviews

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“Reveal[s] a man still deeply troubled by serious questions and regrets about his life’s work, particularly his lack of meaningful action in the matters of slavery and civil rights. . . . Emerson probably would have loved the novel.”

Historical Novels Review

“As intellectually entertaining as it is memorably thought provoking.”

Midwest Book Review

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“[Lock’s] American Novels series makes a huge contribution to our understanding of the ideas and lives of some of America’s most outstanding thinkers.”

Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore (Spokane, WA)

In 1879, toward the end of his life, the Sage of Concord has lost his words. Beset by aphasia and grief, Ralph Waldo Emerson is scarcely recognizable as America’s foremost essayist and orator. To the dismay of his wife, he frequently entertains the specters of his fellow transcendentalists, including Whitman, Thoreau, John Muir, and Margaret Fuller, and frets about the future of humankind and the natural world. Does the present displace the past? Do ideas always precede actions? What responsibility does each of us bear for the downtrodden, the preservation of liberty, and the Earth itself? These metaphysical concerns become concrete when Emerson meets a Black soldier accused of killing a white man who abused him. The soldier’s presence demands a response from Emerson, an action outside the parlors of philosophy and beyond the realm where language and logic hold sway.

The Ice Harp, the tenth stand-alone book in The American Novels series, is a poignant portrayal of a literary luminary coming to terms with the loss of memory, the cost of inaction, and the end of life.

Shelf Unbound “Summer Reading List” selection

Foreword Reviews “Book of the Day” selection

Literary Hub “New Books!” selection

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Excerpt from The Ice Harp