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The Gift

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  181 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Praise for Barbara Browning:

“A provocative novel . . . that blurs the boundaries between life and performance, dance, art, and viral video.”—Slate

“Deftly blending highbrow intellectual concerns with the informality of Facebook-era communiqués, Browning’s newest is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

In the midst of Occupy, Barbara
Paperback, 256 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Coffee House Press
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Average rating 3.96  · 
Rating details
 ·  181 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
loved it. smart, vulnerable. riding a razor's edge between perfect exhibition/revelation and self-absorbed or too insular (as autofiction might tend to do), and also between friendly accessible and not afflicting-the-comforts of the reader enough. yet it's all done offhandedly, in a way where the risk seems almost casual and the dazzling results seems natural.

and, also, you're welcome : made a playlist of most of the songs mentioned.
(not entirely comprehensive as i did it a bit haphazardly
Guillaume Morissette
As a novel, I am not sure it works, but as a text, I enjoyed a lot of observations/topics discussed in this.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: FPOD poets
Shelves: novel, female, year-2010s
I know this was a good / unique one because I'm struggling to find ways to describe it. I guess it's a theory-laden confessional semi-fictionalized memoir, along the lines of Chris Kraus's excellent I Love Dick. Barbara (a fictional version of the author) struggles with questions of what it means to give a gift. What it means to accept a gift. What it means to create intimacies across distances and the internet, often with strangers. What it means to be lying vs. fictionalizing. What are the ...more
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Devoured compulsively in a day.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
loved this book so so much. things i loved:

art as collaboration
gift economy vs creative gifts
disability, pain, language, music
emailing something in the smallest file size bc you don't want to bother them with a large file
strangely intimate internet friendships
erotic of hands - digits/"the digital"
learning abt postmodern dance and the idea that "dance is for everyone"
spam art
"all love is autistic"
very careful yet shifting/complicated delineation between the real, the fictional, & the
At first I thought it's crazy. Then it was ok. Then it was again crazy.
Somewhere on the first pages the author wrote something like: I love doing something but ot doesn't mean that I'm good at it. So writing a book wasn't something that she is good at. But, fortunately, it was only my first impression and this book is an rare occasion when first imoressions are wrong.
Of course, I'm not keen on modern problems raised in the book, such as, for exaple, gender problems. I think they are overpriced
This book is a gift! I adored it. Written in an autofictive mode, it focuses on inappropriate intimacies and gift economies; art as a gift; via her relationships with a musical virtuoso with Asperger's and an interdisciplinary artist who is trans; but spills out into all sort of thought-provoking territory. Now eager to read everything Browning has written.
Jeff Raymond
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book annoyed me.

And not because of the basic topic, which involves a lot of modern relationships that exist primarily through the digital space and sort weird intersection of modern art with a lot of these communications, but just how... odd it was.

The book is listed as fiction, but I'm convinced it's not, and if it is, it's *heavily* informed by real events, and the narrative doesn't really try to give any real sort of descriptive structure to it. It's a book about feelings and
Laura Murphy
Seven months after I moved to New York, the Occupiers took over Zuccotti Park. At the time, I was working two jobs and staging a performance in an abandoned storefront across from a pizza joint in Greenpoint. You could say it was off, off, off Broadway.

But back then, off the beaten path was where everyone wanted to be. And though I still see a lot of experimental theatre and performance art in New York City, in 2011 the genre reached peak popularity. It seemed like everyone was making sweet,
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting style. Terrible disability + drug politics. Inexplicably un-twisty twist.
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I like experimental writing, but this dragged too much. Quit at page 18.
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it
didn't want to write about this yet because i didn't want to be done with it! wanted to hold on to it a bit longer. and felt i had read it a bit too quickly, overly quickly (a sensation that somehow felt most similar to say spilling a glass of milk, or accidentally shaking a carton of milk with the top off, which yes i Did do last friday, with, yes, a carton of not just milk but oat milk...), that i almost had to reread it.
a couple reasons for this reaction, i think. last week, or maybe the week
Jacob Wren
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Barbara Browning writes:

Maybe you're thinking I should take everything my friend Lun-Yu tells me with a grain of salt. She also told me that day one of her favorite psychoanalytic theorists was Wilfred Bion. I'd never read Bion before, so after she left I read a bit about him, and I found online the complete text of a seminar he held in Paris in 1978. The beginning of this seminar is very interesting. At least it was to me. Bion says that he wants his listeners to imagine a scenario: they're
To call this book "unlike any other I've ever read" might seem hyperbolic, but it's true. First, there's the narrator's tone, which comes across as guileless and shrewd, but also a little daft. (At times, she seems to be reporting quite simply what happened when she engaged in intimate correspondences with strangers online, and also what was happening in her own life at the same time. Some of this narrative is analyzed while she writes it, for example, she will write for pages about a piece of ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
"Don't write about your life - it's not interesting, I promise," is an adage that's been rephrased by varying authors a thousand times over. Merging real life with imagined life makes perfect sense to me, but I found myself wishing the author would lean further in one direction or another over the course of reading the book. As the Slate reviewer said, the book blurs boundaries between art forms, between reality and Browning's particular definition of "fiction", storytelling with what might be ...more
Dec 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I had a hard time getting into this book because I couldn't see it as more than a kind of pedestrian exploration of art making and art. The thing that made it worth finishing was reaching the point in the fictional art making where fictional Barbara realizes that the book she thought she was writing was not to be and that she had no control over the story. There's this beautiful unfolding that happens then that makes this a story not about art on its own but about people and artists. How real ...more
Jul 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Browning explored some interesting concepts here--technology and human connections, the social exchanges of giving and owing things to each other. My central problem is that I didn't find Browning as narrator and as a character in the novel especially compelling: the way she provokes and moves and observes the reactions and actions of her friends/characters. I'm also not sure if or how the book would work as a third-person piece, or as something more detached. The experimentation and the ...more
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
there's dancing about architecture then there's writing about dancing.

Some of this is really brilliant and riveting and then it just keeps going.

Sometimes you can be too smart for your own good, too meta for your meta meta.

I like Ben Lerner's books for the same reasons I wanted to like this one.

So overall it works and it doesn't. Like a gift.
Hillary Humphreys
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A strange, wonderful, messy novel. Browning cuts herself open for us and I think that's the real "gift" of this book. It is a bit more high-minded than I usually go for, however, and I think I will need to reread it at some point in the future so as to truly understand it.
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Experimental and tackling some interesting ideas of art, gift making, vulnerability and society. However I failed to really connect and “feel” both the narrative voice and the characters. Regardless, an interesting work that triggered some thinking
Josh Luft
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
This work of autofiction got me to like an "inappropriately intimate" person who does ukulele covers and makes videos of erotic "hand dances." That’s a gift.
Karen Soanes
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
quirky and serious, stream of conscious and measured, social critique and performance art - I really enjoyed it!
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’m currently a student of Barbara Browning’s. I’m taking her fetish class that is mentioned in the book. It truly is a gift that keeps on giving.
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Just not sure I’m hip enough to really get this book. Is she really a dancer? I’m not sure.
Tom Thor Buchanan
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't as into this as I'm trying to reach you, but it was still really thoughtful and empathetic, as I've come to expect!
Dustin Baker
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Stop right now...go get this book and read it
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Barbara Browning is very fun
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Barbara Browning's The Gift is the rambling, autofictional, intellectual novel about dancing, connecting, sex, gender, and disability of the year. A pleasure to behold on every single page.
E Hella
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a stunning work of queer autofiction. Browning will make you question everything you thought you knew about reality.
Sep 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Didn't find the narrator compelling, though I enjoyed it.
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Barbara Browning's debut novel, The Correspondence Artist, was published in February, 2011. She has a PhD from Yale in Comparative Literature. She teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU. She's also a poet and a dancer. She lives with her son in Greenwich Village.
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