‘How I Didn’t Write Any of My Books’ reimagines literary canon with unfinished works

How I Didn’t Write Any of My Books
Chapbook, Aurélie Noury, No Press, 21 pgs, [email protected]

Noury’s essay is an ultra-violet light to the literary canon’s invisible ink. How I Didn’t Write Any of My Books sharpens our focus on negative space, the work that “could not be written down on paper,” the empty bookshelf, the unfinished manuscript, the pulse of life that remains in embryo, “filling far more than pages, but entire lives.”

The labyrinth of books not written — both in the lives of fictitious characters and “abstinent authors” — is an ensorcelling concept, touching on what is intrinsic to the artist: “a work is also everything that was not.” Noury writes an almost encyclopedic inventory of this counter-literature, underlining the means by which works like On Dandyism by Baudelaire, or the manuscript of Robert Serval in Perec’s 53 Days, works that have not, in fact, been written, create a Rubin’s vase in the literary realm. Siphoning completed imaginary texts into the Lorem Ipsum publishing project, Noury writes by reading, as “to create out of one’s readings is paying off one’s debts.”

The chapbook itself is beautifully sewn together, jacketed with twice-ripped pages from Virginia Woolf ’s To The Lighthouse — ripped once out of the book’s spine, and ripped second in half — producing a resonance out of divided sentences: “She could see the words / rhythmically in Cam’s mind, / after her how it was like a / garden, and there were little / opening and shutting, and…” Noury is, in content and form, re-imagining the literary canon.