Betwixt-And-Between: Essays on the Writing Life


Product Details

$16.95  $15.76
Coffee House Press
Publish Date
4.9 X 0.5 X 7.7 inches | 0.35 pounds
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About the Author

Jenny Boully is the author of The Body: An Essay, The Book of Beginnings and Endings: Essays, not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them, and other books. Born in Thailand, she grew up in Texas and holds a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She teaches creative writing and literature at Columbia College Chicago.


Shortlisted for the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Award in Nonfiction

"[Boully's] prose is reminiscent of Lydia Davis'--spare, elliptical, unexpected--and sometimes, in her rhythmic cadences, of Gertrude Stein's. . . . Graceful meditations on love, loneliness, and the magic of words." --Kirkus

"Fellow practitioners of literary nonfiction will find Boully's writing relatable and charming." --Publishers Weekly

"I cherish my fevers because they begin to break down the edges of the self I've so meticulously constructed in my waking life. Jenny Boully's sentences have a similar effect on me. She comes by her slippages and seams honestly. One gets the sense that she has straddled the space between waking and dreaming, not writing and writing, her whole life, and has something real to tell you about the time she's spent in the in-between. You should follow her as far as you can go." --Ander Monson

"[Boully] lingers on the joys and challenges of the uncertainty that accompanies creative work. The result is a slim book that captures an author's practice and the relationships she draws between writing and falling in love, dreaming and memory." --Poets & Writers

"[Betwixt-and-Between is] a book for fans of the lyric essay and for those who want to think about writing and the creative life." --BookRiot

"Boully's thought process, as seen on the page, is a pure pleasure to behold--she's full of delight and her words offer sensations beyond what mere words usually do." --Nylon

"Formally inventive and frequently gripping, the essays in this collection from Jenny Boully demonstrate just how challenging literature can be a mirror of its author's psyche and concerns -- and the often transcendental charge that can emerge from immersing oneself in them." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"Boully's collection reminds us that there is a story not just on the pages we produce, but for every phase of our writing life, and for every genre, voice and style we pursue." --Electric Literature

"By positioning the reader in a space of hypothesis, Boully tests the limits of memory and lived experience, never quite allowing her reader to land on stable footing. With this linguistic trick, a redefinition of what is the personal begins to emerge." --Literary Hub

"Betwixt-and-Between is haunted by a lost love, a persona (or perhaps a series of figures) who appears and disappears throughout the book; the conflation of writing and loving is direct . . . Writing, loving, and losing braid together, forming and deforming each other in a fractious snarl." --Los Angeles Review of Books

"Shifting and resisting, Boully has given us a collection of essays that also functions as a craft book in motion--not a set of directives but evidence of a writing life lived. It is everything we could want, but not as we expect." --Brevity

"[Betwixt-and-Between is] not only a powerful demonstration of writing as life, but of the ways that lived experiences can illuminate and transform writing." --Star Tribune

"Boully's writing is a glimmering landscape, a series of more-true-than-true snapshots which capture what it means to exist simultaneously within and without the page--a kind of existence that can only be shown through imagined loves, daydreams, moths, memories, hunger, outer space, and electronic bleeps." --Arkansas International

"The writings of Jenny Boully occupy the space between genres and forms, eluding attempts to place them in one tradition or another. In this collection of essays, which spans Boully's career as a writer to date, Boully explores her own feelings on literary techniques, and reveals the personal underpinnings for some of her boldest decisions as a writer." --Vol. 1 Brooklyn

"Boully's lyric essays, which wander through disparate histories, myths, and stories, produce emotional truth in their ordering of disorder. Her essays, like lovers, follow desire in the hope that it will take them somewhere new." --Ploughshares

"Jenny Boully's newest collection brings together her essays on the writing life, including her coming-of-age as a poet, the magic of writing craft, and the relationship between writing and the nature of being." --The Margins

"In Betwixt-and-Between, Jenny Boully gathers disparate instances and encounters and weaves them into sumptuous lyric essays that--while deeply sensual--also reveal 'the inner working of things.' She inscribes the part of us between the world and the body, the space that receives the world, then turns it into a dream in order to more deeply understand it. In this new collection, Jenny Boully evokes knowledge's ephemeral core, how it looks in the air or as a meadow, her brilliance inflected with lyric witchery." --Carmen Giménez Smith

"Anybody can have a thought--they cost nothing, on the internet--but to capture the drama of someone thinking on the page is a rare and difficult thing. That's where the action of an essay is, and the intimacy too, and in Jenny Boully's latest collection we draw so near the mind of the maker we seem to fall down through ourselves, into a new and wholly strange concentration. Betwixt-and-Between leaves behind an accurate record of the trouble Boully encounters in her search for the simplest way to say complex things about sincerity and beauty and love and happiness--and yes, all those shy hopes are here, all caught on the sly, in this wonder of a book." --Charles D'Ambrosio

"[Boully] captures trains of thought like breezes through her fingers, which she has a rare gift for taming long enough to lie still and be regarded." --NewCity

Praise for Jenny Boully:

"Jenny is the future of nonfiction in America. What an absurdly arrogant statement to make. I make it anyway. Watch." --John D'Agata

"Yes, Aristotle, there can be pleasure without 'complete and unified action with a beginning, middle, and end.' Jenny Boully has done it." --Mary Jo Bang

"Jenny Boully is a deeply weird writer--in the best way." --Ander Monson

"Boully seduces [her reader] by drawing unexpected but felicitous linkages between disparate citations from the history of literature. . . . Filled with the exegetical projection of our own imagination." --Christian Bök

"In Boully's writing, there are no beginnings or endings; instead, we are presented with impressions, threads, and flashes of narrative. Within the space of these short paragraphs, we are compelled to narrate our own ideas about the pleasures and failures of love. . . . There are many questions in this work that are left unanswered, as well as many silences surrounding what happened 'in the end.' Yes, there is much talk about beginnings, but we are never truly situated 'in the beginning.' Instead, we remain in the continual becoming of love and loss, memory and perception, narrative and poetry. We stay, as the various characters and the speaker herself, 'within unnameable endless flowerings.'" --Craig Santos Perez