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Any Person Is the Only Self


Author: Elisa Gabbert

Any Person Is the Only Self

Any Person Is the Only Self


About This Book

Contagiously curious essays on reading, art, and the life of the mind, from the acclaimed author of The Unreality of Memory.

Who are we when we read? When we...

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Book Details

Contagiously curious essays on reading, art, and the life of the mind, from the acclaimed author of The Unreality of Memory.

Who are we when we read? When we journal? Are we more ourselves alone or with friends? Right now or in memory? How does time transform us and the art we love?

In sixteen dazzling, expansive essays, the acclaimed essayist and poet Elisa Gabbert explores a life lived alongside books of all kinds: dog-eared and destroyed, cherished and discarded, classic and clichėd, familiar and profoundly new. She turns her witty, searching mind to the writers she admires, from Plath to Proust, and the themes that bind them—chance, freedom, envy, ambition, nostalgia, and happiness. She takes us to the strange edges of art and culture, from hair metal to surf movies to party fiction. Any Person Is the Only Self is a love letter to literature and to life, inviting us to think alongside one of our most thrilling and versatile critics.

Imprint Publisher

FSG Originals



In The News

Praise for Any Person Is the Only Self

“A work of embodied and experiential criticism, a record of its author’s shifting relationships with the literature that defines her life . . . Gabbert is a master of mood, not polemic . . . In place of the analytic pleasures of a robustly defended thesis, we find the fresh thrills of a poet’s perfected phrases and startling observations. Any Person Is the Only Self is both funny and serious, a winning melee of high and low cultural references, as packed with unexpected treasures as a crowded antique shop . . . She is a fiercely democratic thinker, incapable of snobbery and brimming with curiosity.”
— Becca Rothfeld, The Washington Post

"Terrific . . . A collection about reading, akin to Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris or Alejandro Zambra’s Not to Read . . . Gloriously scattershot . . . An expression of gratitude for both the act of reading in itself and for reading as a route to conversation, a means of socializing, a way to connect . . . Gabbert replicates the random swirl of a good night out . . her work sings."
—Lily Meyer, The New York Times Book Review

Gabbert is one of my favorite living writers, whether she’s deconstructing a poem or tweeting about Seinfeld. Her essays are what I love most, and her newest collection—following 2020’s The Unreality of Memory—sees Gabbert in rare form: witty and insightful, clear-eyed and candid. I adored these essays.”
—Sophia M. Stewart, The Millions (Most Anticipated)

Any Person is the Only Self is absolutely brilliant, full of clarity and mystery and light: Gabbert effs the ineffable, describes the impossible to describe—the state of reading, what it means to remember. I’m still thinking about these essays, by which I mean still thinking about Gabbert’s own thoughts; I keep bringing them up in conversation. Elisa Gabbert is one of my favorite living writers.”
—Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Souvenir Museum and Bowlaway

Invigorating . . . [Gabbert's] lively commentary offers fresh takes on classic literature . . . [She] is an original thinker, and the literary analysis is refreshingly unstuffy. Bookworms will appreciate these intelligent essays.”
Publishers Weekly

Elisa Gabbert is a reader’s reader, smart and funny and endlessly insightful . . . Any Person Is the Only Self made me want to read even more than I already do, and to do so better and more deeply; long before I reached its last page, I knew I would begin it again the second I finished.”
—Matt Bell, author of Appleseed and Refuse to Be Done

“It’s hard to think of another essayist whose intellect is so inviting, so companionable, yet so confident and persuasive—Elisa Gabbert isn’t just brilliant, she makes you feel brilliant too . . . Erudite, entertaining, inexhaustibly compelling.”
—J. Robert Lennon, author of Pieces for the Left Hand and Let Me Think

Any Person Is the Only Self again proves how lucky we are to have Elisa Gabbert—to be able to treat ourselves to her erudition, her capacious curiosity, her writerly verve, her good humor. . . . Insightful, funny, mind-expanding stuff, filled with quiet epiphanies and surprising delights.
—Isaac Butler, author of The Method

Praise for The Unreality of Memory

“Gabbert draws masterly portraits of the precise, uncanny affects that govern our psychological
relationship to calamity . . . bending crisp, clear language into shapes that illustrate the shifting
logic of the disastrous . . . [with] expansive curiosity and encyclopedic style.”
—Alexandra Kleeman, The New York Times

“A voice for our anxious, wired times, if ever there was one.”
—Hephzibah Anderson, The Guardian

“One of those books that send you to your notebook every page or so . . . A work of uncanny
—Robin Jones, The Paris Review

“[Gabbert] find[s] angles readers might not otherwise see . . . Like massive buildings, her
subjects are hard to fit in a single frame; she circles them, finding all the vantages she can.”
—Megan Marz, The Washington Post

“The kind of essays that don’t only teach you things, they leave you thinking harder and deeper
about what it means to live in this world.”
—Lincoln Michel, BOMB

About the Creators

This Book is On Tour

Any Person Is the Only Self

Any Person Is the Only Self