A very, very on-point review of The Surrender at Full-Stop by John Trefry. So much has Trefry said about this book that accords with my own ideas about it, and that also enlarges upon them in ways that feel new to me, that I don’t quite know how to summarize my response, other than to just encourage you to read it.
In particular, I think the readings via Alta Ifland’s poetry and Marcel Bénabou’s Why I Have Not Written Any of My Books are inspired, and I would say that this very well accords with what I have tried to do in the book.
The matter of The Surrender is necessarily biographical, but even inasmuch as this is narrative-based, Esposito does not quite submit to that as a form. The text exists far more in the digressive temporality of Tristram Shandy or Austerlitz than a mainstream biographical memoir. Every book functions as the distillate of nonverbal cognitive fields into text. But the productivity of some books is predicated on that function. A book like The Surrender that is so much about the proper fit of a word scrim over an entire life of cognitive fields cannot avoid being an unrecognizable oversimplification when measured against the digressive and ephemeral intrusion of fleeting thoughts and stimuli that every instant consider who you are, what articulates your identity, what precipitates the thought itself. While such thoughts accrete, they form the identity, and are so voluminous, so recursive, and of such a fine grain as to be undetectable, but always accreting. All the same, if the only possible manifestation is something more like the twilit scrawl of an absent skater on a frozen pond, The Surrender is very effective.