Figure It Out: Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum

Figure It Out: Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum

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Through a collection of intimate reflections (on art, punctuation, eyeglasses, color, dreams, celebrity, corpses, porn, and translation) and assignments that encourage pleasure, attentiveness, and acts of playful making, poet, artist, critic, novelist, and performer Wayne Koestenbaum enacts 26 ecstatic collisions between his mind and the world. 

A subway passenger’s leather bracelet prompts musings on the German word for “stranger". Montaigne leads to the memory of a fourth-grade friend’s stinky feet. Koestenbaum dreams about a handjob from John Ashbery, swims next to Nicole Kidman, reclaims Robert Rauschenberg’s squeegee, and apotheosizes Marguerite Duras as a destroyer of sentences. 

He directly proposes assignments to listeners: 

  • "Buy a one-dollar cactus, and start anthropomorphizing it. Call it Sabrina.” 
  • “Describe an ungenerous or unkind act you have committed.”
  • “Find in every orgasm an encyclopedic richness.... Reimagine doing the laundry as having an orgasm, and reinterpret orgasm as not a tiny experience, temporally limited, occurring in a single human body, but as an experience that somehow touches on all of human history."

Figure It Out is both a guidebook for, and the embodiment of, the practices of pleasure, attentiveness, art, and play from “one of the most original and relentlessly obsessed cultural spies writing today” (John Waters).