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The Book of Beginnings and Endings

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  25 reviews
“Jenny is the future of nonfiction in America. What an absurdly arrogant statement to make. I make it anyway. Watch.”—John D’Agata

“Yes, Aristotle, there can be pleasure without ‘complete and unified action with a beginning, middle, and end.’ Jenny Boully has done it.”—Mary Jo Bang

A book with only beginnings and endings, all invented. Jenny Boully opens and closes more than
Paperback, 128 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Sarabande Books
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Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-re-read
This is really quite a wonderful little book-- like the title says, and which I didn't really for the first ten or so pages, this is a series of alternating beginnings and endings-- so the odd numbered pages are the first page of something (an essay, whatever that means) and the even numbered pages are the last page of an unrelated essay (see above). So we've got textbooks, sort of, about invertabrate life, and rules for odd modes and cases in Greek grammar (odd to me, at least) and then more me ...more
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: university
Really a beautiful book, though it frustrated me similarly to Hejinian's My Life in its breaking of expectations of what makes a story. What makes something whole. Can we really find the beginnings and endings of any piece here? Where does any work begin? The spontaneous accident or creation of the universe, authors before us, our parents, their parents, our own consciousness and memory, age 3 onward? Where can we find our endings, in our deaths, or do we outlive ourselves until we are forgotten ...more
Kasey Jueds
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So many people have already written about the form of this book, which is definitely one of the most striking and lovely things about it. And there are other striking, lovely things as well: the language (so many sentences and phrases to linger over, so many that jumped off the page at me), the deep emotional life of these pieces (not really sure what to call them? poems, essays, fragments?). The form does so much to make what might be sentimental, in a "regular" essay or poem, NOT that... and t ...more
Mar 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: poets, poetry-lovers, experimental essay writers who don't mind being disappointed
Recommended to J by: Catherine Imbrilgio
Shelves: school
Rating a book like this is hard, in that I know that Jenny Boully is a good writer, but I wanted to stop reading this a third of the (short) way through.

I think the notion is brilliant -- the reader is given just the beginnings and endings of essays. But the beginnings & endings don't match up at all, and it slowly becomes clear that any continuity will be found in threads continued through the entire book (butterflies, paper slipped into books), which was beautiful in its own way, but the title
Jan 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Jenny Boully's writing is brilliant and beautiful. I just wish there were more of her voice, and less of her experimentation with form. ...more
Sep 27, 2011 rated it did not like it
Deeply pretentious piffle.
Vincent Scarpa
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(heart still achey and strange, so I continue to reread Boully)

“When a star ‘dies,’ it still exists; it is only said to ‘die’ because it no longer gives light. So too do I wonder about our living selves: do we begin then, sometime, much later, to give off light? The star still exists; some stars, such as quasars and pulsars, will continue to give off signals, such colossal amplitudes of last life, a life-line showing up on no screen, continuously beeping for a celestial doctor who does not come.
Rebecca Valley
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-to-buy
One of the strangest books in terms of form I’ve ever read, and also one of the most beautiful in terms of longing for more of it - I want all these books to exist! I want all these beginnings and endings to have beautiful and full middles! A beautiful book about longing.
Bryan Fox
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
It's a cute experiment, but it doesn't amount to much. More of an art installation than a book. She (and the reader) could have gotten just as much from randomly taking first and last pages from texts she liked. ...more
disorienting, luminous, open (ajar)
Lauren Rhoades
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
A curious little book of delightful fragments, unmatched beginnings and endings, like squares in a quilt. A mind opening book. My second of Jenny Boully’s.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Jenny Boully manages to weave startling revelations into these short essays. Acting like a springboard to set off our thought processes on new trajectories. To me, some of Boully’s Beginnings and Endings read like prose poetry.
“Each line should in some way, read on its own and yet relate to the whole; line breaks work best if they are winged and serve to hinge two meanings.” From the piece, “Every Winged Thing Passes Unmolested Through Infinity.” And this: “The poem then is always pa
Sep 20, 2008 rated it liked it
as with [one love affair...], this is an interesting, worthwhile read. i had some trouble, however, in connecting the disparate beginnings and endings (which is the point, really--to let the unknown suffice and tell its own story). this form was so jarring, though, which ultimately made the collection feel not whole. perhaps it was due to my ADD that i kept putting the book down and forgetting what i'd read previously. ...more
Chelsey Clammer
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
damn this book is amazing. each essay is the first and last page of a "book" boully has written. absolutely an excellent concept, and pulled off so well. it feels poetic and smart, and definitely keeps your mind engaged. i read it once, then read it again the next day. about to go on vacation and read it for the third time in a week. ...more
Jonathan Ball
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant, simple conceit that is executed perfectly, Boully's THE BOOK OF BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS presents, alternately, the beginning and ending pages of a host of otherwise unwritten, speculative books, which taken together have a strange resonance and constitute something of an extended essay on beginnings and endings in literary works. Boully is one of the best writers practicing today. ...more
Carrie Lorig
Dec 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
jenny boully has ruined the borders and my poetry has not suffered for it. i am absolutely in love with her love to disrupt all smooth wrapping paper. she has planted potatoes and they are blue with red guts and they have the crinkly texture of an ash rinse. fuck off she says.
Aug 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Notable quotes:

“How can one forget the first black stain, the aquired fragileness that keeps us forever from becoming whole?”

“I only exist elsewhere.”

and p. 25 (footnotes).
Mar 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I never wanted it to end. Luckily, it never truly begins or ends.
Louella Lester
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very interesting way of looking at stories.
Sep 14, 2011 added it
Shelves: 2011
Dec 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant concept. The execution was not always perfect, but still, what a concept.
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Johnna  Gurgel
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book made me think so much in such a wonderful and twisted sense. I will defiantly read it again, which is a huge feat for this book as I've hardly reread anything. ...more
Tyler Mendelsohn
Apr 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book made me so, so sad. In a good way.
Hector Garbaj
rated it it was amazing
Feb 03, 2019
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Jan 31, 2013
Elena Passarello
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Mar 20, 2009
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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 Pre ...more

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