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The Body: An Essay Paperback – April 25, 2002
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Boully has succeeded in constructing a fragmented, aphoristic work... and her text seduces its reader... -- Maisonneuve
Boully's book is...a restless effort, curious and full of rich curiosities... a courageous and thoughtful new voice in literature. -- Verse
The Body coheres as the book of a personality, entertaining, slightly brittle, prematurely jaded, pleasantly brassy. -- The Boston Review
From the Publisher
Advance praise for The Body:
This book excites me, with its wit and with its difference. In a menaced time, when sentimental addictions are more futile than ever, we really do need someone smart who speaks near us. Intelligence is the sanctifying grace of poetry; Boully's lets words find us again, when we are sick with strategies of avoidance. She works by leading us ever deeper into the act she proposes, this reading pleasure, and there she catches us reading , and prances round us to show us where we are. In these delicious footnotes to an elided text, maybe her greatest achievement is the formal one of realizing that poems themselves are footnotes to an immense silence. - Robert Kelly
The second-thought made brilliant. Story shadows essay shadows poem. Boully's after-touch on the world of book culture is evocative and earthy and light. - Thalia Field
In a recent issue of Seneca Review devoted to the 'lyric essay,' I encountered The Body by Jenny Boully, a prose poem (or so it seemed to me) consisting exclusively of footnotes to an absent text. It's terrific, and it makes me want to read a lot more by this obviously talented poet. - David Lehman
Top customer reviews
In "The Body," Boully does no more than any curious person does in internally debating the nature of existence, the purpose of literature, the meaning of love - but the way she does it is no less than calling to a memorable reckoning the history of human thought and writing. From the Bible to Laurence Sterne to Lacan, and much of what comes in between (and before/after), the scope and breadth of Boully's exposure and knowledge of what has been written on the subjects she treats is obvious in her engagements with and struggles to mine those sources and adapt them to her own purposes. What seems to result is a statement that these revered authorities have never been able to provide an answer to the questions that plague our attempts at epistemological clarity - and she is humble enough not to try offering her own work itself as an answer, but instead as a reevaluation of the questions.
Footnotes as footnotes are meant to illuminate or clarify the text to which they are appended. Giving us a series of footnotes to a text that's not there complicates things - it forces us to look "underneath," to the silences - to what we don't say, the letters we don't send, the truths we can't admit even to ourselves about ourselves. What revelations lay behind the paste-board masks that we present to the world as our selves? The oceans of blank space in this deceptively small (78 page) book tease us with a body that is still undefined, unexplored, unnameable as it were.
The dreams and fragments, scenarios of plays unacted, nondescript, and yet lush depictions of people without names, words we can't read, and conversations between people who don't hear each other - the footnotes themselves disorient our ideas of the world we arrange in order to make sense of. What appears at first glance to be a loose amalgamation of unrelated comments, reveals itself, in the course of reading, to be a carefully arranged, highly patterned series of musings, often simultaneously wary and celebratory of uncertainty. To read "The Body," at least for me, has been to lose, at least temporarily, the need to have everything make sense; to hear, see, and read answers to questions that I don't know how to ask.