The Unreality of Memory

the unreality of memory by elisa gabbert

The Unreality of Memory & Other Essays is forthcoming in August 2020 from FSG Originals and available for pre-order now.

“Terror, disaster, memory, selfhood, happiness . . . leave it to a poet to tackle the unthinkable so wisely and so wittily. A work of sheer brilliance, beauty and bravery.” — Andrew Sean Greer, author of Less

“With poetic precision, The Unreality of Memory lays bare the truth, beauty, and pain of living in our era. Examining disasters both manmade and natural, Gabbert’s essays perform a beautiful autopsy of our fears, showing us what it means to exist in a time of eternal apocalypse. Breathtaking in its scope and thought and captivating prose, Unreality is a necessary and vital handbook for anyone experiencing the existential dread of everyday modern life.” — Lyz Lenz, author of Belabored and God Land

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

“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 300 Arguments

“Elisa Gabbert is one of my favorite writers, but how I wish her new book wasn’t so timely! I mean this as the highest praise: I had to go lie down in between essays.” — Austin Kleon, bestselling author of Steal Like an Artist

“Gabbert moves fluidly from disaster to dislocation to political upheaval, offering a kind of literary road map to our tumultuous era … Her questing, restless intelligence is what holds the essays together … The idea here—as in all the essays in this nuanced book—is that consciousness is conditional, and we can understand ourselves only in pieces. A fine collection from a poet who seems equally comfortable in prose.” — Kirkus (starred review)

“Whatever the chosen topic, Gabbert’s essays manage to be by turns poetic, philosophical, and exhaustively researched. This is a superb collection.” — Publishers Weekly

“[A] searing essay collection that takes place at the intersection of devastation, technology, and memory. In shattering essays, Gabbert explores if and how and why certain threats register more than others, and how even seemingly immutable facts are subject to spin from our imprecise recollections.” — Vulture

“Elisa Gabbert’s The Unreality of Memory is one of those joyful books that send you to your notebook every page or so, desperate not to lose either the thought the author has deftly placed in your mind or the title of a work she has now compelled you to read. The essays encompass sickness and trauma, anesthesia and memory, politics and political apathy, but owing to the force of Gabbert’s attention, the book remains determinedly cohesive. Written before COVID-19 altered all our lives so irretrievably, it is also a work of uncanny prescience.” — The Paris Review