A literary guide to digital anxiety, The Unreality of Memory collects thought-provoking and playful essays on the Internet age's media-saturated disaster coverage and our addiction to viewing and discussing the world's ills.
We stare at our phones. We keep multiple tabs open. Our chats and conversations are full of the phrase "Did you see?" The feeling that we're living in the worst of times seems to be intensifying, alongside a desire to know precisely how bad things have gotten.
Poet and essayist Elisa Gabbert's The Unreality of Memory consists of a series of lyrical and deeply researched meditations on what our culture of catastrophe has done to public discourse and our own inner lives. In these tender and prophetic essays, she focuses in on our daily preoccupation and favourite pastime: desperate distraction from disaster by way of a desperate obsession with the disastrous.
Moving from public trauma to personal tragedy, from the Titanic and Chernobyl to illness and loss, The Unreality of Memory alternately rips away the facade of our fascination with destruction and gently identifies itself with the age of rubbernecking. A balm, not a burr, Gabbert's essays are a hauntingly perceptive analysis of the anxiety intrinsic in our new, digital ways of being, and also a means of reconciling ourselves to this new world.
Elisa Gabbert is the author of three poetry collections, L'Heure Bleue, The Self Unstable, and The French Exit. Her debut collection of essays, The Word Pretty, was published in 2018. The Self Unstable was chosen by the New Yorker as one of the best books of 2013. Gabbert's work has appeared in the New Yorker, Boston Review, The Paris Review Daily, Pacific Standard, Guernica, The Awl, Electric Literature, The Harvard Review, and many other venues. She lives in Denver.
Medicine: general issues