Permanent Revolution: Essays by Gail Scott

Permanent Revolution: Essays by Gail Scott

Le Grand Prix du livre de Montréal 2021: Jury Selection

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May 25, 2021
Nonfiction | Essays
8.5 x 5.5 inches | 164 pages
Trade Paper ISBN 9781771666824

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“A writer may do as she pleases with her epoch. Rage accumulates.”

From iconic feminist writer Gail Scott comes Permanent Revolution, a collection of new essays gathered alongside a recreation of her groundbreaking text, Spaces Like Stairs. In conversation with other writers working in queer/feminist avant-garde trajectories, including l’écriture-au-féminin in Québec and continental New Narrative, these essays provide an evolutionary snapshot of Scott’s ongoing prose experiment that hinges the matter of writing to ongoing social upheaval. Scott herself points to the heart of this book, writing, “Where there is no emergency, there is likely no real experiment.”

With a Foreword by Zoe Whittall and an Afterword by Margaret Christakos.

Praise for Permanent Revolution:

“At once erudite and intimate, Permanent Revolution is a vital set of meditations on difficulty and feminist art. Gail Scott convincingly and beautifully evokes feminism as an ongoing experimental practice: courageous, expansive, and necessary to all.” —Anne Boyer, author of The Undying, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

“‘I can never write the novel I want.’ —Gail Scott. In this context, is the sentence a crypt? When does nescience, in the way that word is used by Abraham and Torok, first become a possibility, an analog, a coin, for this other kind of prose, which is to say: ‘not a novel’ (then)? Permanent Revolution is written in the gap between what a novel could have been and what is possible now, and that’s a kind of grammar. Reading these essays, I felt the part of me that never writes, but longs to, come back to life for a few moments and/or forever.  ‘The gap’s so great, it’s almost comical.’ —Gail Scott, who once said that the space between sentences is ‘an abyss.’ I wrote that down and thought about it for years afterwards. There was something irreversible, I understood, about what might come next.  What will you give up?  Who will you never see again?  ‘That is: where + how in writing?’ —Gail Scott.”
—Bhanu Kapil

“I can still remember the thrill of first entering the space of Gail Scott’s novel, My Paris, a diary written all in present participles, the way I stumbled along the sentences as if around a city. In these essays, we get to travel through Scott’s thinking through narrative, gender and queer aesthetics, from philosophizing her own experiments in prose to being in conversation with the écriture feminine of friends, from Nicole Brossard’s Mauve Desert to New Narrative. She also writes through her literary foremothers, from Kathy Acker through the trilogy of the “masturbating French dykes” (ha!) (Irigaray, Cixous, Wittig) to Marguerite Duras. It was Duras’s nonfiction I thought about when reading Permanent Revolution—profound and poetic, enacting the urgency of literature amidst the emergencies of now.”
—Kate Zambreno, author of Heroines and Drifts

“To experience Gail Scott’s écriture is to open yourself to ‘a wild, titillating, ineffable excess.’ Her ‘community of sentences’ are bodily gestures that we are folded together with, com-pli-cit. She gathers the noisy polyglossic surround of her city, ‘wilfully fuck[ing]’ the caesuras between torn and porous sentences and subjects. What seems at first the limits of articulation with proper listening becomes a beautiful threshold of social space. This book of essais, radical tries, charts Scott’s writerly formation at the nexus of Québécoise feminist fiction/theory and San Francisco queer New Narrative bodily spillage. No one writes quite like Gail Scott, and we all have so much to learn from her untameable work ‘at a juncture of politics + excess.'” Rachel Zolf

Press Coverage:

Shrapnel’s Most Anticipated Titles for Spring 2021  —Shrapnel Magazine

New Books Round-Up —Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star

Quoted: Permanent Revolution —All Lit Up

Summer Reads 2021 – Saelan —Librairie Drawn and Quarterly blog

A state of permanent revolution is also a state of permanent questioning, of oneself and of one’s surroundings. Scott’s modes of questioning vary over time, but her concerns remain constant: feminism, queerness, class struggle, resisting capitalism and neoliberalism, the shape of sentences.” —Helen Chau Bradley, Montreal Review of Books

Gail Scott Reads from Permanent Revolution! —Librairie Drawn and Quarterly blog

The Attack of Difficult Women Prose: Gail Scott Considers Lit-Crit’s Underestimation of Female Genius —Literary Hub

“It is fixity, above all, that Scott resists — on the level of politics, identity, and prose — meaning made singular and contained for the purpose of mastery alone. With Permanent Revolution, she creates a live text that does not strive towards closure or finality, but rather is experienced in its transience and becoming. Scott envisions an active meaning, sentence, and subject-in-becoming that wrestles in continuous interplay with the wider ecology around it.” —Tess Michaelson, Full Stop

Gail Scott is the author of Spare Parts (1981), Heroine (1987, re-issued in 2019 with an introduction by Eileen Myles), Main Brides (1993), My Paris (1999), Spare Parts Plus Two (2002), and The Obituary (2010). Her essays are collected in Spaces Like Stairs (1989) and in La Théorie, un dimanche (1988) which was translated into English as Theory, A Sunday (2013). Scott is co-editor of the New Narrative anthology: Biting the Error: Writers Explore Narrative (2004). Her translation of Michael Delisle’s Le désarroi du matelot was shortlisted for a 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award. A memoir, based in Lower Manhattan during the early Obama years, is forthcoming. Scott lives in Montréal.


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