On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

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9780823230365: On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

Jean-Luc Nancy's On the Commerce of Thinking concerns the particular communication of thoughts that takes place by means of the business of writing, producing, and selling books. His reflection is born out of his relation to the bookstore, in the first place his neighborhood one, but beyond that any such perfumery, rotisserie, patisserie,as he calls them, dispensaries of scents and flavors through which something like a fragrance or bouquet of the book is divined, presumed, sensed.On the Commerce of Thinking is thus not only something of a semiology of the specific cultural practice that begins with the unique character of the writer's voice and culminates in a customer crossing the bookstore threshold, package under arm, on the way home to a comfortable chair, but also an understated yet persuasive plea in favor of an endangered species. In evoking the peddler who, in times past, plied the streets with books and pamphlets literally hanging off him, Nancy emphasizes the sensuality of this commerce and reminds us that this form of consumerism is like no other, one that ends in an experience-reading-that is the beginning of a limitless dispersion, metamorphosis, and dissemination of ideas. Making, selling, and buying books has all the elements of the exchange economy that Marx analyzed--from commodification to fetishism--yet each book retains throughout an absolute and unique value, that of its subject. With reading, it gets repeatedly reprinted and rebound. For Nancy, the book thus functions only if it remains at the same time open and shut, like some Moebius strip. Closed, it represents the Idea and takes its place in a canon by means of its monumental form and the title and author's name displayed on its spine. But it also opens itself to us, indeed consents to being shaken to its core, in being read each time anew.

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About the Author:


Jean-Luc Nancy is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Universit Marc Bloch,Strasbourg. Among the most recent of his many books to be published in English are Corpus; The Ground of the Image; Listening; Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity; Noli me tangere: On the Raising of the Body; On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores; and The Truth of Democracy (all Fordham).

DAVID WILLS is Professor of French and English at the University at Albany, SUNY. His most recent book is Dorsality: Thinking Back Through Technology and Politics.

Review:


Opening this little 'Aleph' of a book is a most extraordinary adventure; the universe and how we know it unfolds in startling profundity. I thought I knew what a book was until I read this, but Nancy has set me off again in search of the million things a book can be.-Lewis Buzbee


More than an loge to books and bookstores, or to the book or the bookstore, Jean-Luc Nancy's evocative essay reminds us of the crucial link between reading and politics that keeps open the possibility of enlightenment. Nancy touches suggestively on the book as what Stphane Mallarm called 'a spiritual instrument,' illuminating the epochal philosophical and religious developments for which books have been the indispensable material support. Nancy's book contains the philosophical weight and literary flair that has made him one of the most important thinkers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. As David Wills helpfully points out in the preface to his excellent translation, Nancy's thoughts on books and bookstores extend his reflection on the possibility of the truly singular plurality of community.-Kevin McLaughlin


Delights the mind with its turns of phrase, its creative reinterpretations of ordinary concepts, and its remarkable rigor.-Sander van Maas


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