The Doubles by Scott Esposito

Civil Coping Mechanisms, September 18, 2017
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Part memoir-through-film, part inquiry into the effect art has on our lives, The Doubles is Scott Esposito’s passionate, exquisitely written examination of 14 films that have come to define him. Retelling one film per year, and covering 20 years of Esposito’s life from 1996 – 2016, The Doubles shows the development of a mind via film and the formation of self-identity. From classic cinema like A Clockwork Orange to cosmological documentaries like A Brief History of Time to offbeat works like Koyaanisqatsi and major contemporary fare like Boyhood, Esposito’s book inquires into the possibilities of a medium that has made us all.

“Scott Esposito is a true American cosmopolitan—full of ideas and void of pretensions. His way of seeing—inquisitive and gentle—his way of writing—honest and charismatic—are a life-line out of our self congratulatory provincialism.” — Álvaro Enrigue, author of Sudden Death

“Framed through the lens of film criticism, The Doubles is, in fact, a book that defies categorization, jump-cutting narrative (cultural and otherwise), memoir, and aesthetic insight into a hybrid that is often surprising and always rigorous. In the process, The Doubles manages to highlight both art’s effect and its necessity: the way a work (or works) can get inside us, transforming not only how we think but also who we are.”
— David L. Ulin, author of Sidewalking: Coming to Terms with Los Angeles

“Readers of Scott Esposito’s Conversational Reading blog already know him to be one of the most perspicacious literary critics in America. But to read The Doubles is to discover something else: that he is as thrillingly insightful about film, and about human experience, as he is about literature. With a bounding intelligence, a tremendous—and seemingly effortless—erudition, with enormous soulfulness, energy and wit, Esposito strains his life through the prism of cinema (or is it the other way around?) and arrives at something magnificent: a work of sustained criticism that is itself a work of high art, and a profound meditation on how the art we see becomes who we are.” — Mathew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine and Los Angeles Review of Books Senior Editor

From the September 6 launch event at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, where I was interviewed by Herralde Prize winner Álvaro Enrigue, author of Sudden Death (Riverhead Books, 2016)
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Official selection for The Brooklyn Rail‘s Best Nonfiction of 2017

Best of the Year at Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“An erotics is a celebration of art’s power to knock us dumb. With The Doubles, Esposito has written an erotics of cinema.” — Music & Literature

“[Esposito’s] book of film-critical memoirs is literary prose for readers left wanting more after plunging through Maggie Nelson.” — Morgenbladet

“There are many reasons to recommend The Doubles, not the least among them the sheer range of films discussed. . . . But what most recommends the book to me is Esposito himself, who in moving toward art becomes a mirror of the kind of quiet, unassuming critic we’d all like to be.” — The Brooklyn Rail

“[Esposito’s] engagement with film yields intriguing ideas. . . . The passion that animates The Doubles is palpable on every page.” — the San Francisco Chronicle

“A book that’s intelligent, personal, and beautifully written that uses film to relate part of the author’s personal story.” — Tempestad

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The Doubles is a November 2017 Editor’s Pick from Europe Now, Columbia University’s journal of arts and culture

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An essay from The Doubles, “TO BECOME A MERMAID ON LOU YE’S MOTION PICTURE ‘SUZHOU RIVER’ [2000],” has been serialized at the UK journal Hotel.
Read it here.

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On September 27 and October 1 I participated in launch events for The Doubles at Skylights Books in Los Angeles and City Lights in San Francisco. My deep thanks to both bookstores for putting together really beautiful events and to my collaborators, Penny-Ante publisher Rebekah Weikel and novelist Micheline Marcom, who interviewed me in LA and SF, respectively.

Here’s the audio from Skylight:

And here’s the audio from City Lights:

(Unfortunately, no audio was recorded from the New York City launch at Community Bookstore, where I was graciously interviewed by novelist Álvaro Enrigue, author of Sudden Death.)

Prizewinning Mexican author and publisher Efrén Ordóñez interviews me about The Doubles at the Brazos Bookstore website.

Efrén Ordóñez: Scott, The Doubles is a book in which you write about and, in a way, summarize and reflect on each of the movies included in it. But, for whoever is reading about the book for the first time in this interview, we’re not talking about a book ON film, are we? During the book presentation in New York, Álvaro Enrigue even said it’s a book on writing. Is it? What is it really about?

Scott Esposito: That’s a great question—a really hard one, and one that I may not be the best person to answer. One of my hopes for the book is that it’s broad enough to give readers their own room to determine just what it’s about. I very much enjoyed hearing Álvaro’s rationale for calling it “a book on writing,” although that was something that never occurred to me as I wrote it. For me, as the author, it’s a great pleasure to see someone like Álvaro interact with the book and find a definition of it that’s surprising, edifying, and seductive. So I very much hope it is a book that permits these sorts of readings.

As to myself, if I had to risk a theory, I would say that it is a book about the phenomenological experience of art. As a critic and as an enthusiast of art, I tend to seek to understand a piece through my own personal experience of it. For me, all understanding begins in perception. My belief is that if I can craft statements specific enough . . .

I created a musical playlist for The Doubles as part of Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes series. Read it here.

Interview at Vol. 1 Brooklyn.

as seen at East Bay Booksellers in Oakland, CA

I was interviewed by the leading Mexican cultural periodical Tempesdad on The Doubles.

Read Patrick Nathan’s review of The Doubles in Music & Literature.

“What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more… The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.” Sontag challenges the critic to evangelize the ineffable. This is exactly what Esposito has done with The Doubles, a book that embraces the ecstasy of trying to satisfy an insurmountable desire to understand. Hermes, the messenger god, decrypted the Olympian mysteries so that man could understand. To channel Eros—born of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and Ares, the god of war—is to lose control over one’s language altogether. An erotics is a celebration of art’s power to knock us dumb. With The Doubles, Esposito has written an erotics of cinema.

I was interviewed by The Creative Independent on my process and The Doubles.

The Doubles received a capsule review at Morgenbladet, one of Norway’s oldest and most esteemed cultural weeklies.

This book is about film, but the book recommendation column editors dare to dip their toes into its green pages because the American critic Scott Esposito writes effectively about literature, and also because his book of film-critical memoirs is literary prose for readers left wanting more after plunging through Maggie Nelson. To answer the question “why am I me?” with the help of works of art strikes us as an excellent idea.

Denne boken handler om film, men anbefalingsredaksjonen drister seg til å dyppe tåa i de grønne sidenes farvann fordi den amerikanske kritikeren Scott Esposito egentlig skriver om litteratur og fordi hans filmkritiske memoarbok også er litterær sakprosa for lesere som er slått i bakken av en Maggie Nelson og vil ha mer. Å besvare spørsmålet «hvorfor er jeg meg» ved hjelp av kunstverk slår oss som en glimrende idé.

as seen at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, CA

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