Writing and the Body reassure me of the fact that so long as there is a culture of readers, there will always be a place for the bricks-and-mortar bookstore, or perhaps the bricks-and-mortar used-book store. Writing and the Body was published in 1982 and has long since gone out of print, and I doubt I ever would have known of it, much less read it, if not for the fact that I serendipitously came upon it one day in Half-Price Books (where I in fact bought it for considerably less than half the list price). While it's true that Google Book has come a long way in making the Internet a place where great, lost books are discoverable, it still has nothing on a moderately sized used-book store stocked by bibliophiles." />

The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

Available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from this site:


Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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You Say

Group Reads

The Tunnel

Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

New Books
Here are ten of my favorite moments from these hugely interesting letters.


Interviews from Conversational Reading

New Books
See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • [[there.]] by Lance Olsen December 15, 2014
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  • Noir and Nihilism in True Detective December 15, 2014
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  • The Colonel’s World December 15, 2014
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  • Mr Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn by Alessandro Baricco December 15, 2014
    Alessandro Baricco’s well-crafted, elegant prose seems as though it should create the impression of distance, or of abstraction; instead, the reader of Mr. Gwyn and Three Times at Dawn becomes wholly implicated and immersed, drawn into a dreamy and idiosyncratic world that blurs the division between reader, character and writer. As readers, we expect that th […]
  • The Walls of Delhi by Uday Prakash December 15, 2014
    "The paan shop leads to the opening of a tunnel, full of the creatures of the city, and the tears and spit of a fakir." In a single opening line, Uday Prakash sets the scene for the politically incisive, yet intimately human stories of The Walls of Delhi (translated brilliantly from the Hindi by Jason Grunebaum). Lest the fakir suggest otherwise, t […]
  • The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation December 15, 2014
    In a speech reprinted in the book, Heim makes a self-deprecating joke about whether the life of a translator is worth reading: “What does a translator do? He sits and translates!” The Man Between serves as a book-length retort by laying bare all the things Heim did: these include persuading the academy that translation is a scholarly (in addition to a creati […]
  • The Prabda Yoon Interview December 15, 2014
    Yes, I think people are not comfortable anymore to write in this straightforward, traditional way, especially the younger, more progressive writers. So it’s interesting—you have social commentary, and you also get a little bit of structural experiment. You have themes that are very, very Thai. I’m actually very interested to see what new writers will come up […]
  • The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck December 15, 2014
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  • In the Heart of the Heart of the Country by William H. Gass December 15, 2014
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  • Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli December 15, 2014
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Kinetic Melody

Books like Gabriel Josipovici’s Writing and the Body reassure me of the fact that so long as there is a culture of readers, there will always be a place for the bricks-and-mortar bookstore, or perhaps the bricks-and-mortar used-book store. Writing and the Body was published in 1982 and has long since gone out of print, and I doubt I ever would have known of it, much less read it, if not for the fact that I serendipitously came upon it one day in Half-Price Books (where I in fact bought it for considerably less than half the list price). While it’s true that Google Book has come a long way in making the Internet a place where great, lost books are discoverable, it still has nothing on a moderately sized used-book store stocked by bibliophiles.

The four lectures-turned-essays collected in Writing and the Body are difficult to summarize; they are essays that embody writing as exploration, in other words essays clearly written by an author who pursues his line of inquiry with a true rigor and respect for nuance. They’re essays that would never diminish themselves by attempting to articulate anything so pat as a conclusion, instead constellating around certain inexpressible questions and ideas that they try to define by uncovering the borders of.

Insofar as they’re about any one thing, the essays are about what has been called “kinetic melody.” In the book’s final essay–on notes Kafka would scribble on slips of paper to communicate as he lay dying of tuberculosis and unable to speak–Josipovici takes up the relationship of thoughts to the actual physical act of writing (which has indeed changed quite a bit in the 30 years since he delivered this lecture). Josipovici writes that

at basis all writing is the metamorphosis of the mechanical movement of the hand into the infinite variety which constitutes letters, words, sentences.

And then he quotes the neuropsychologist Aleksandr R. Luria from the book The Man with a Shattered World (misattributed in the book as from The Man With the Shattered Skull) who wrote about “the case of a young soldier who had part of his brain shot away int he way and spent the next twenty-five years laboriously trying to put together the pieces of his shattered world.”

Josipovici goes on to write that

[the soldier's] extraordinary account of his attempts, beautifully edited and commented upon by Luria, show as does nothing else I know what a miracle human thought, memory, and language are, though we take them so much for granted. Especially interesting is Luria’s account of how Zasetsky was finally enabled to write when Luria persuaded him to stop worrying about the formation of individual letters, which was causing him terribly difficulty and anxiety, and instead to trust his pen, so to speak. “Kinetic melody” is how Luria described our normal habit of writing, and that beautiful phrase sums up a great deal of what I have been trying to say.

Kinetic melody is a wonderful phrase that connotes just what happens when we enter into these writing and reading states where it is possible to embody our thoughts on paper, or to recreate someone else’s embodied thoughts in our head. Josipovici’s book is a constantly intriguing meditation on the fact of communication via the written word, and many of the interesting consequences that arise from the performance of this act and the many artifacts it has left behind in our world.

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1 comment to Kinetic Melody

  • Just a note to this Scott: Writing & the Body was reissued in 1992 as part of “Text & Voice: Essays 1981-1991″ (which may also be out of print too), and Kinetic Melodies are discussed further in the 1996 Yale UP volume “Touch” in 1996.

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