Out of Nowhere Into Nothing

Out of Nowhere Into Nothing

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Author: Caryl Pagel

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press (2019)

The ghosts—literal and figurative—that drive our deepest impulses, disturb our most precious memories, and haunt the passages of our daily lives are present in this collection of sublime meditations on the unbelievable, the coincidental, and the apparitional. Often containing reflections on the art of storytelling, Caryl Pagel’s essays blend memoir, research, and reflection, and are driven by a desire to observe connections between the visual and the invisible. The narrator of Pagel’s essays explores each enigma or encounter (a football coach’s faked death, the faces of women walking, historical accounts of hallucinations, a city’s public celebration gone wrong) as an intellectual detective ascending a labyrinthine tower of clues in pursuit of a solution to an unreachable problem: always curious, and with a sense of profound wonder.
Out of Nowhere Into Nothing is a sprawling, highly associative consideration of the ways in which the observed material world recalls us to larger narrative and aesthetic truths. Interspersed with documentary-style photographs, Pagel’s first collection of prose is a radiant, obsessive investigation into the mysteries at the center of our seemingly mundane lives.

“Pagel is an investigative reporter carefully picking her way through the seemingly random and yet intricately related igneous rocks that form the spiral jetty of her mind. What does it mean for a woman to be 'lost in thought,' doing 'nothing,' and how does she find her way? By carefully piecing together the connections between the art, psychical events, and people that have led her to the place of writing. Pagel’s prose is a marvel. I stayed up late into the night reading this book, all too willing to be lost in (her, my) thought.”

–Barbara Browning
“I appreciate Out Of Nowhere Into Nothing for how gently and generously it cares for the flawed and faulty machine of memory. Pagel is a thoughtful and skilled storyteller, weaving together narratives in a way that centers itself on trust and reliability. Reading this book was like hearing from an old friend, and having all of your favorite recollections painted back in.”

–Hanif Abdurraqib

Out of Nowhere Into Nothing is a radical retelling of loneliness. With the ribbonlike precision of Woolf and Sebald, Pagel writes like ‘a ghost in the company of ghosts.’ Each essay reads not like a honeycomb, but like a ghostcomb. Each essay is shaped like a mass of hexagonal cells that contains the uncontainable: inside jokes, hallucinations, grief, love, art, nothingness, and the swell of being. I love Pagel’s poet brain. ‘Here,’ writes Pagel, ‘there were flowers growing through tree stumps.’ She reminds us of what we cannot afford to miss or forget or never know.”

–Sabrina Orah Mark