Synopses & Reviews
Literary Nonfiction. Elisa Gabbert's THE SELF UNSTABLE combines elements of memoir, philosophy, and aphorism to explore and trouble our ideas of the self, memory, happiness, aesthetics, love, and sex. With a sense of humor and an ability to find glimmers of the absurd in the profound, she uses the lyric essay like a koan to provoke the reader's reflection—unsettling the role of truth and interrogating the "I" in both literary and daily life: "The future isn't anywhere, so we can never get there. We can only disappear."
"Gabbert strikes a perfect balance between heart and head, between cleverness and earnestness, between language that demonstrates its own fallibility and language that is surprisingly, perfectly precise."—Make Magazine
"... smart and philosophically dexterous, capable of showing the self to be a fetish-object of its own and also a refractive subject of Lacanian devotion, as a mirror which doesn't so much distort as endlessly `reveal,' like the panopticon eye of a camera."—The Rumpus
"... the dispassion about the self allows the writer to enact a number of equally lovely sleights of hand . . . Even while the author is drawn to image and reason, she is also in love with the vanishing point, where all perspective is ecstatically compressed into a single node."—Gently Read Literature
"Gabbert's (The French Exit) latest is a treatise on a deconstructed world, which she describes as 'the Ã¢Â€Â˜so what' school of criticism' the exact opposite of a cheerful self-help book: 'in truth,' she writes, 'both irony and sincerity are filters.' Of course, this is a shrewd and basic truth we often willingly choose to overlook. But this experiment in positioning the self outside of all systems of values and ideology yields, at best, mixed results: on the one hand, the book is full of sleek, provocative lines, and the koan-like structure of each essay invites the reader to linger over it, pondering each line's implication for hours: 'Be careful what you wish for, in that it tells you what you want.' On the other hand, the book's tone is cold and oppressive: 'It is difficult to feel moved in general,' she writes. 'Statistically, most worlds are boring.' The most vivid moment in this compressed book of misery and boredom masquerading as nonchalance is of a famous poet throwing his half-eaten ice cream cone in the trash: 'this is boring.' David Foster Wallace suggested the next generation of literary rebels would 'eschew self-consciousness and hip fatigue,' be 'artists... willing to risk accusations of sentimentality, melodrama.' In this instance, Gabbert does not represent such a vanguard. (Dec.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Elisa Gabbert is the author of THE SELF UNSTABLE (Black Ocean, 2013), THE FRENCH EXIT (Birds, LLC, 2010) and the chapbooks Thanks for Sending the Engine (Kitchen Press, 2207) and, with Kathleen Rooney, That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths, 2008), a collaborative collection.