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"Terror, disaster, memory, selfhood, happiness . . . leave it to a poet to tackle the unthinkable so wisely and so wittily."* A literary guide to life in the pre-apocalypse, The Unreality of Memory collects profound and prophetic essays on the Internet age’s media-saturated disaster coverage and our addiction to viewing and discussing the world’s ills.
We stare at our phones. We keep multiple tabs open. Our chats and conversations are full of the phrase “Did you see?” The feeling that we’re living in the worst of times seems to be intensifying, alongside a desire to know precisely how bad things have gotten―and each new catastrophe distracts us from the last.
The Unreality of Memory collects provocative, searching essays on disaster culture, climate anxiety, and our mounting collective sense of doom. In this new collection, acclaimed poet and essayist Elisa Gabbert explores our obsessions with disasters past and future, from the sinking of the Titanic to Chernobyl, from witch hunts to the plague. These deeply researched, prophetic meditations question how the world will end―if indeed it will―and why we can’t stop fantasizing about it.
Can we avoid repeating history? Can we understand our moment from inside the moment? With The Unreality of Memory, Gabbert offers a hauntingly perceptive analysis of our new ways of being and a means of reconciling ourselves to this unreal new world.
"A work of sheer brilliance, beauty and bravery.” *―Andrew Sean Greer, author of Less
"Amid impending disasters too vast even to be perceived, what can we do―cognitively, morally, and practically? Gabbert, a tenacious researcher and a ruthless self-examiner, probes this ultimate abstraction in her essays, goes past wordless dread and comes up with enough reasoned consideration to lead us through. Do you feel―and how can you not―as if your emotional endurance is exhausted by horrors already well underway? Then you should read this book." ― Sarah Manguso, author of The Guardians
"The Unreality of Memory fearlessly entertains taboo thoughts, but with the unaffected honesty of intimacy rather than the attention-seeking of a gadfly. Gabbert has the magical ability to make an essay feel like a best-ever conversation with a best friend, the kind of conversation that changes the way you think about things forever. Wildly fun and casually brilliant, this book will make you feel happier while you're reading it and smarter once you finish." ― Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens
Elisa Gabbert is the author of the poetry collections L’Heure Bleue, The Self Unstable, and The French Exit. Her debut collection of essays, The Word Pretty, was published in 2018. The Self Unstable was chosen by the New Yorker as one of the best books of 2013. Gabbert's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Boston Review, The Paris Review Daily, Pacific Standard, Guernica, The Awl, Electric Literature, The Harvard Review, and many other venues. She lives in Denver.
Kaveh Akbar's poems appear recently in The New Yorker, New York Times, Paris Review, Poetry, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. His newest book, Pilgrim Bell, will be published by Graywolf in 2021; he is also the author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James 2017). Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph and Warren Wilson Colleges.