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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.

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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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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

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Interviews from Conversational Reading

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


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  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
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  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
    Poet-critic. Think of that word, made of two—what a beaux construction. The first is wild, hair mussed, looking at a bird in a tree—yet the follower is practical, urbane, and seemingly obeisant to word counts. Together they bleach out the fusspot academic and appeal to logos—Davenport once said that he was “not writing for scholars or critics, but for people […]
  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
    In 2011 Andrew Gallix, in the Guardian, wrote a piece on unread difficult books, and mentioned “an anthology of blank books [edited by Michael Gibbs] entitled All Or Nothing,” and we can consider Blank as continuing that line. Kenneth Goldsmith’s prefatory essay “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (201 […]
  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

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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