Proxies: Essays Near Knowing
Author: Brian Blanchfield
Publisher: Nightboat Books (2016)
Past compunction, expressly unbeholden, these twenty-four single-subject essays train focus on a startling miscellany of topics―Foot Washing, Dossiers, Br’er Rabbit, Housesitting, Man Roulette, the Locus Amoenus―that begin to unpack the essayist himself and his life’s rotating concerns: sex and sexuality, poetry and poetics, subject positions in American labor (not excluding academia), and his upbringing in working-class, Primitive Baptist, central-piedmont North Carolina.
"Proxies: Essays Near Knowing brings a slowed-to-meaning lens to the remembered moments of a life. Blanchfield’s readers wander into his ordinary-extraordinary quotidian—the vulnerable longing of a singular voice expressing a peopled intelligence. Not since Hilton Als’s White Girls have I read anything as interrogative, unsettling, and brilliant."
"Into what some are calling a new golden age of creative nonfiction lands Brian Blanchfield’s Proxies, which singlehandedly raises the bar for what’s possible in the field. This is a momentous work informed by a lifetime of thinking, reading, loving, and reckoning, utterly matchless in its erudition, its precision, its range, its daring, and its grace. I know of no book like it, nor any recent book as thoroughly good, in art or in heart."
"Brian Blanchfield’s sentences are modern marvels. They coil, insinuate, embellish—and then land on the tender spot. If Hart Crane had survived to write a book of autobiographical essays, it would resemble Proxies—but would Hart have given us the low-down on frottage? Blanchfield is a staggeringly accomplished stylist, whose artful elucidations deserve to be savored, studied, and, yes, worshipped."