Figure It Out
“Toward what goal do I aspire, ever, but collision? Always accident, concussion, bodies butting together . . . By collision I also mean metaphor and metonymy: operations of slide and slip and transfuse.” In his new nonfiction collection, poet, artist, critic, novelist, and performer Wayne Koestenbaum enacts twenty-six ecstatic collisions between his mind and the world. A subway passenger’s leather bracelet prompts musings on the German word for stranger; Montaigne leads to the memory of a fourth-grade friend’s stinky feet. Koestenbaum dreams about a hand job from John Ashbery, swims next to Nicole Kidman, reclaims Robert Rauschenberg’s squeegee, and apotheosizes Marguerite Duras as a destroyer of sentences. He directly proposes assignments to readers: “Buy a one-dollar cactus, and start anthropomorphizing it. Call it Sabrina.” “Describe an ungenerous or unkind act you have committed.” “Find in every orgasm an encyclopedic richness . . . Reimagine doing the laundry as having an orgasm, and reinterpret orgasm as not a tiny experience, temporally limited, occurring in a single human body, but as an experience that somehow touches on all of human history.” Figure It Out is both a guidebook for, and the embodiment of, the practices of pleasure, attentiveness, art, and play.

Figure It Out Details

TitleFigure It Out
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 5th, 2020
PublisherSoft Skull
ISBN-139781593765958
Rating
GenreWriting, Essays, Nonfiction

Figure It Out Review

  • Taylor Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Soft Skull for the ARC!Koestenbaum's meandering writings are, as usual, highly affecting. From thoughtful to cringey (Koestenbaum's way of talking about the body and using bodily metaphors is very much not my cup of tea, but is successful nonetheless), the essays in this collection cover a variety of topics that each serve as an epicenter for a blossoming of the author's thoughts, opening up the space for relections that make things complex seem simple, and things simple, complex.
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  • Deedi (DeediReads) Brown
    January 1, 1970
    All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. Thank you to Soft Skull Press and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this book! It will be published May 5, 2020.I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book, although they net positive. Theres no doubt that Wayne Koestenbaum is whip smart, astute, and well written. The books not long, but it features quite a few essays, divided into several smaller sections. They have lots of different formats and structures, ranging from All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/. Thank you to Soft Skull Press and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this book! It will be published May 5, 2020.I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book, although they net positive. There’s no doubt that Wayne Koestenbaum is whip smart, astute, and well written. The book’s not long, but it features quite a few essays, divided into several smaller sections. They have lots of different formats and structures, ranging from critique of culture to journal observations to artistic exercise instruction.I just don’t necessarily think I was this book’s best reader. I wasn’t very familiar with a lot of the people Koestenbaum referenced or critiqued, so those essays were hard for me. I was also glad to be reading on an ereader with a dictionary functionality, because he uses a lot of intense vocabulary words. And yet other essays drew me in and held me there; I particularly liked the ones where he provided writing exercises, the opening essay about chance encounters with two people in NYC, the one about his piano, and the one about words and grammar.I think ultimately, this book is worth picking up for the moments that will shine for you — and there will be some. Just don’t be afraid to bounce around from essay to essay if you need to.
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  • Chris Roberts
    January 1, 1970
    Self-indulgence on a semi-epic scale,the ego is a nasty little cockroach.#poemChris Roberts, God Made Out in Electro-Lights
  • Kendra
    January 1, 1970
    Any book by Koestenbaum is a dip into his kaleidoscopic mind, where we might encounter anything from musings on size queens to anecdotes about encounters on the subway to beards to art to music to celebrities to fashion to imaginary events and dreams. This collection brings together essays, lists, journal entries, and other short writings that provide the reader with an excellent overview of Koestenbaum's mostly omnivorous thoughts (although there is a definite focus on white people, Jewishness, Any book by Koestenbaum is a dip into his kaleidoscopic mind, where we might encounter anything from musings on size queens to anecdotes about encounters on the subway to beards to art to music to celebrities to fashion to imaginary events and dreams. This collection brings together essays, lists, journal entries, and other short writings that provide the reader with an excellent overview of Koestenbaum's mostly omnivorous thoughts (although there is a definite focus on white people, Jewishness, men, and gay idols) about his life and life in general. If you can overlook what is omitted and revel in what he does think about and how he does it, this latest entry into the Koestenbaum library is dazzling and thoughtful and entertaining and frustrating and a good sampler of his work.
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  • Csimplot Simplot
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent book!!!
  • Cori
    January 1, 1970
    I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I requested a copy of this book. I like essays, and I was intrigued by the description. I still have no idea what Ive gotten myself into and may never know. One thing I like about collections of essays is being able to pick it up and put it down over a long period of time as you explore each stand alone piece of work. Each one provides an opportunity for careful examination and a deep dive into a short work because brevity has nothing to do with I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I requested a copy of this book. I like essays, and I was intrigued by the description. I still have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into and may never know. One thing I like about collections of essays is being able to pick it up and put it down over a long period of time as you explore each stand alone piece of work. Each one provides an opportunity for careful examination and a deep dive into a short work because brevity has nothing to do with depth. This will definitely be a book I keep by the couch to pick up during those unexpected pockets of time when I don’t know what else I want to do. Koestenbaum has an intense stream of conscious style of writing in which he “squirrels” from connection to connection as it seemingly popped into his head. With wide-ranging topics including smells, eyeglasses, punctuation and Madonna and Debbie Harry, you just won’t be able to anticipate what you will encounter when you begin a new piece. If there was ever a book to showcase what it means to be invited into someone’s inner monologue, this might be the gold standard. I may even set a goal for myself to actually fulfill his “Eighteen Lunchtime Assignments.”
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  • Soft Skull
    January 1, 1970
    A new collection of intimate reflections (on art, punctuation, eyeglasses, color, dreams, celebrity, corpses, porn, and translation) and assignments that encourage pleasure, attentiveness, and acts of playful making, from the mischievous, munificent, extraordinary mind of legendary public intellectual Wayne Koestenbaum. A new collection of intimate reflections (on art, punctuation, eyeglasses, color, dreams, celebrity, corpses, porn, and translation) and “assignments” that encourage pleasure, attentiveness, and acts of playful making, from the mischievous, munificent, extraordinary mind of legendary public intellectual Wayne Koestenbaum.
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