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The Body: An Essay

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  281 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Cultural Writing. Poetry. Essays. Comprised of footnotes to a non-existent text, THE BODY: AN ESSAY is a meditation on absence, loss and disappearance that offers a guarded "narrative" of what may or may not be a love letter, a dream, a spiritual autobiography, a memoir, a scholarly digression, a treatise on the relation of life to book. Christian Bok describes Boully's ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Essay Press (first published 2002)
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Sigrun Hodne
Jan 22, 2013 Sigrun Hodne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, essay, poetry
The experience of time translates itself into language, and language translates itself into distance, which translates itself into longing, which is the realization of time. (…) how sad and strange that I, Jenny Boully, should be the sign of a signifier or the signifier of a sign, moreover, the sign of a signifier searching for the signifies.

- Jenny Boully: The Body, an essay

Sometimes texts just catch me, without me being able to explain why. But if I, in spite of my incapability, should try
Jan 02, 2013 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Carl
Shelves: poetry
Carl told me I'd love this, that it was the perfect time for me to read it. And I did, and it was, though I don't know that I fully understood or absorbed all of it.
Melanie Knights
Dec 08, 2016 Melanie Knights rated it it was amazing
it was an interesting read..actually read it because had to review it for ultius pro service but I'm glad I did..those a couple of hours weren't spend in vain
Oct 07, 2016 Kyle rated it it was amazing
Sep 25, 2015 Nicole rated it liked it
The Body: An Essay by Jenny Boully is definitely an intriguing read, but a reading that left me with a feeling of lacking…lacking context, lacking understanding, but also with a feeling of wanting…wanting details, wanting clarity, wanting more. Her style of writing is poetic and in many cases, beautiful. I oftentimes had to stop reading and quickly write down the page number and footnote, as I was memorized by the words I had just read.

Body is a story told through only footnotes. Footnotes that
Apr 08, 2009 Evan rated it really liked it
One quality of a good artist, I think, is the ability to recognize the elements of his artform that he's weakest at and then construct his style so that he doesn't have to face them... or so that they become positive features of his style. Boully's texts tend to be less plot-driven (though the footnotes certainly do produce a plot -- a change in a relationship and a character -- as the pages turn) and more interested in the accrual and juxtaposition of references, externalia, letters, dream ...more
Hannah Li
Sep 15, 2016 Hannah Li rated it it was ok
Elitist and pretentious without being enjoyable. However, there are some bits of beautiful prose here and there. The theme of incompleteness and yearning resonated with me, but stylistically it was far too experimental and distant.
Mar 14, 2014 Tovah rated it liked it
I've heard a lot about this book and was glad to finally get my hands on it. I'm interested in essay play and I was surprised to learn that pieces of this book had been published before as poetry. This is gratifying because I think the lines between poetry and essay can often become blurred, and for that matter between fiction and nonfiction as well. For any doubters of that massive, muddled gray zone, The Body is a great piece to test any hard and fast boundaries against. There's a lot of play ...more
Aug 29, 2009 Kelly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Boully's The Body is as much a work of language, as it is a commentary on the inadequacies of language.

It is at once beautiful and weblike, as it is disparate--quoting authors and well known works--and combining these with Boully's first-hand experience and ideas.

Boully explores the ideas of language as a tool for describing linear time, and the entrapment that's inherent in a linear projection, as well as the subtleties of experience that can never be captured.

While her content is, almost expli
Nicole Lynn
Mar 12, 2015 Nicole Lynn rated it it was amazing
I'm completely in love with Jenny Boully. I've read some of other works before, and I have to say that the line she walks between poetry and essay is nothing short of masterful.

I'm also a sucker for any work that's dually about language and the inadequacies of language at the same time. The idea of an entire essay expressed without the essay is something close to (if not) sheer brilliance, and it's also amazing to me just how much Boully trusts the reader to then, in their own minds, replace th
Sarah Stone
Eloquently tongue-tied, sly, sad, full of invitations half-issued and immediately withdrawn. It does have a narrativish thing going on, though it isn't where the interest comes from. (Why do these bad loves work so gorgeously in Anne Carson's books? [Glass, Irony, and God. The Autobiography of Red.:] Perhaps because Carson has characters rather than signifiers, and because the books have powerful threads of mortality and the outside world.) Bouilly seems to work through an interior tunneling; ...more
Feb 12, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing
Boully's book is a fantastic formal narrative of footnotes with esoteric post-modern references and other MFA-worthy things.

Her writing exceeds what you might see online, so don't take Boully's speaker as being interested in click-bait. The reader gets no evidence of the main character of this book except through the speaker in the footnotes.

The reader gets, essentially, the body, the outlines, of some person, but every section leaves much interpretation up to the reader, and her or his famili
Apr 28, 2013 Aaron rated it liked it
I read this book for a non-fiction genre class this year. I would give it four stars for what it could be if I had spent more time with it. With books like this that I can't spend enough time with to understand, I read it for the little bits that I love. I found a lot of it really enjoyable to read, but I can't say I walked away from it understanding what she wanted to say. The language was all very beautiful and as poems, these footnotes are wonderful little fragments that can spark a lot of ...more
Jun 28, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing
This essay challenges the very idea of text by writing notes on a nonexistent document. The notes are written to facilitate myriad ways to imagine the text that doesn’t appear. The references span time and era, citing Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book, Lewis Carroll, Kafka and Pound; and they hint at a personal, more obscure tragedy.

This book bears multiple readings so I’m glad I bought a copy. I love the cryptic notes the last owner made in the book: “now here’s your task, bleak holder of this text…va
Oct 14, 2007 Martin rated it really liked it
Now back in print from Essay Press. This might sound mean, but this was maybe better as a rumor than as an actual book. The idea is so great -- a book that consists entirely of footnotes to an absent or erased text -- that the book itself is sort of doomed to be better in theory than in practice. Until recently, you could expect to shell out a couple hundred bucks for the second-hand Slope edition, so "in theory" was about the only way you'd encounter it. It's still pretty great, though: a nice ...more
Sep 04, 2016 Caytie rated it did not like it
I simply do not get the appeal. It's a non-traditional form of writing (yay) and she's all the fluff and confusion and babbling, once in a while she'll say something pretty. So what? This is rubbish!
Apr 06, 2008 Rich rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry, micro-prose
I list this as poetry because there's no real distinction, at times, between prose poetry and "the lyric essay." Basically, Boully has created a book of blank pages with voluminous footnotes. So, the trick is reading the footnotes and trying to imagine what might have been on the page. The result is kind-of elliptical and elusive.
Dec 07, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mark by: Elizabeth Beers

I mean. WTF?!

Lots of prompts for assorted writings.

Noticed that no footnotes bleed across to another page. Seems the typography would've required it once or twice.

Just what does "the body" of text say?

This may be with me a while.

Jul 13, 2009 Sabrina rated it really liked it
Perfect example of John Keats' Negative Capability........this one is a lyrical essay written through footnotes alone - the story is left blank...had to read it a few times to construct it in my own head...brilliant choice of details to get your own image-making capacity rolling.
Sep 17, 2013 Heather rated it liked it
An odd little book, but, as with most things in life, if you open your mind to the words your mind will be further opened.
Nov 22, 2008 Josette rated it really liked it
Footnotes galore and white space where an imagined primary text should be. A damned interesting idea. Sara T. is holding my copy hostage. Permanently.
Jul 27, 2013 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Hugely influential for me as a writer. The way she manipulates traditional formats is fascinating, as is her use of punctuation, allusion, ellipsis, catachresis, and space.
Alexis Pope
Alexis Pope rated it it was amazing
Jul 19, 2016
Valerie rated it it was amazing
Oct 20, 2012
Brittany rated it it was ok
Apr 05, 2013
Elenna rated it it was amazing
Nov 12, 2007
Max rated it it was amazing
Jul 11, 2014
Diana Harper
Diana Harper rated it really liked it
Apr 11, 2012
Lenox rated it really liked it
Sep 13, 2009
Rebecca Hazelton
Rebecca Hazelton rated it it was amazing
Aug 26, 2012
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Jenny Boully is the author of four books, most recently not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them (Tarpaulin Sky Press). Her other books include The Books of Beginnings and Endings (Sarabande Books), [one love affair]* (Tarpaulin Sky Press), and The Body: An Essay (Essay Press, first published by Slope Editions). Her chapbook of prose,Moveable Types, was released by Noemi ...more
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“It was the particular feel of him that made me want to go back: everything that is said is said underneath, where, if it does matter, to acknowledge it is to let on to your embarrassment. That I love you makes me want to run and hide.” 8 likes
“It is not the story I know or the story you tell me that matters; it is what I already know, what I don't want to hear you say. Let it exist this way, concealed; let me always be embarrassed, knowing that you know that I know but pretend not to know.” 4 likes
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