Proxies : A Memoir in Twenty-four Attempts

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'A rich and compelling personal account.' Financial Times

In this memoir in twenty-four essays, Blanchfield focuses on a startling miscellany of topics - Foot Washing, Dossiers, Br'er Rabbit, Housesitting, Man Roulette, the Locus Amoenus - that begin to unpack the essayist himself and his life's rotating concerns: sex and sexuality, poetry and poetics, and his upbringing in working-class, Primitive Baptist, North Carolina.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 135 x 216 x 13mm | 220g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main Market Ed
  • 1509847855
  • 9781509847853
  • 876,403

Review quote

The American poet Brian Blanchfield's first collection of essays, Proxies, filled me with wonder, admiration and elation. Subtitled `A Memoir in Twenty-Four Attempts', this outrageously intelligent book, written in a style that fuses head and heart alchemically, advances the game on both the life-writing and the essay fronts. -- Neel Mukherjee * New Statesman * I read . . . Proxies . . . in three sittings, with a thrilling flutter in my gut. The essays are intimate, profound, and always startling; the language feels recalibrated, somehow, in syntax and cadence, a kind of found music; and the book as a total project is unlike anything I've read before. -- Jamie Quatro * Oxford American * Early on his humble and stunning Proxies, Brian Blanchfield asks: "In what kind of place is all the hearing overhearing?" He knows, mostly we eavesdrop on ourselves. We call it thinking. There is no delicacy of mind like that one that moves through the facts of its own errors to arrive at understanding, and here, essay by essay, Blanchfield sifts through the astray archive of his memory to recall all what it is he needs to live. These essays remind us, as they discover inside themselves, the deep virtue of saying, "I don't know." -- Dan Beachy-Quick The premise of this autobiographical essay collection is simple: Blanchfield writes from memory alone, without consulting any outside resources to fact check. As the author explains, "I wrote these essays with the internet off." The result is unlike anything written before. The 24 single topic essays in Proxies are short and focused (topics range from owls to housesitting to frottage), but every single one leads to a more personal revelation or a wider point about the author's life or the greater world. The conclusions of his writings feel organic and authentic, and the 20+ pages of corrections at the end of the book only validate how powerful writing from memory and relying only upon what's inside your own brain can be. * Esquire (US edition) * Brian Blanchfield's sentences are modern marvels. They coil, insinuate, embellish - and then land on the tender spot. If Hart Crane had survived to write a book of autobiographical essays, it would resemble Proxies - but would Hart have given us the low-down on frottage? Blanchfield is a staggeringly accomplished stylist, whose artful elucidations deserve to be savored, studied, and, yes, worshipped. -- Wayne Koestenbaum Mr. Blanchfield's more high-flown reflections [are] slyly used in juxtaposition with the plain-spoken memories of this 'working class white boy' from North Carolina . . . One becomes acclimated to, and impressed by, the way he transitions from, say, an etymological investigation of billiards terminology to the way his father shot pool. * New York Times * Interrogative, unsettling, and brilliant. -- Claudia Rankine This is a momentous work informed by a lifetime of thinking, reading, loving, and reckoning, utterly matchless in its erudition, its precision, its range, its daring, and its grace. I know of no book like it, nor any recent book as thoroughly good, in art or in heart -- Maggie Nelson Everyone ought to read Brian Blanchfield's Proxies immediately . . . It will change you -- Jonathan Lethem * BOMB * The most brilliant book I've read in years. Anyone who has been amazed (and rightly so) by Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts should read this book post-haste. -- Garth Greenwell * Guardian * Blanchfield produces a string of exhilarating passages . . . His observations and interrogations urge us to contemplate, very carefully, the happenings that surround us. "Why is a still thing upsetting?" he asks on the first page of the first Proxies essay, "On Owls". The simplicity of the question disguises its profundity, which eventually crept up on me as I was nearing the end of the book. It still hasn't let me go, and nor has the book. * TLS * A rich and compelling personal account. * Financial Times *
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About Brian Blanchfield

Brian Blanchfield is the author of two books of poetry, Not Even Then and A Several World, which received the 2014 James Laughlin Award and was a longlist finalist for the National Book Award. His essays have appeared in Harper's, BOMB, Brick, Guernica, Story Quarterly, and other publications. Recipient of a 2016 Whiting Award in Nonfiction, he is an editor of Fence and the host of Speedway and Swan on KXCI 91.3 in Tucson.
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Rating details

6 ratings
4.16 out of 5 stars
5 33% (2)
4 50% (3)
3 17% (1)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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