New Books Network

Eric LeMay

In Praise of Nothing

Essays, Memoir, and Experiments

Emergency Press 2014

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network June 13, 2014 Jill Talbot

Some people describe a lonesome highway or the middle of a desert town–even a state like Ohio–as “the middle of nowhere.”  But for others,...

Some people describe a lonesome highway or the middle of a desert town–even a state like Ohio–as “the middle of nowhere.”  But for others, like Eric LeMay, no such place exists. There is always a “there there.”  It’s the presence within the absence that draws LeMay.  Either because the absence offers mystery, intangibility, or perhaps it trembles with what came before.  Hamlet pondered, “To be or not to be?” but in LeMay’s writing, the self, our world, even texts don’t exist as either/or puzzles.  It’s the missing pieces–the in-betweens–that are as much a part of everything as anything else.  LeMay’s In Praise of Nothing:  Essays, Memoir, and Experiments (Emergency Press, 2014) not only makes something from nothing, it shows us how we all do.  LeMay contemplates the namelessness of John or Jane Doe, the Rumsfeldian “Unknown unknowns, ” the past’s echoes, and Ground Zero, yet he also elucidates the ways in which words–those in existence and those imagined–can create a new reality or alter the perception of the self. Here is LeMay’s experiment–to sift through layers of texts, images, research, language, and memory in order to reveal how we make meaning out of nothing at all.

According to LeMay’s own description, In Praise of Nothing “exists on the printed page and it also exists, slightly altered, in an electronic version . . . shadow versions and doppelgangers, doubles and divergences, lurking in the digital world.”  So you can read, for example, “Losing the Lottery,” a randomly-numbered collage of statistics, anecdotes, quotes, and personal accounts of the obsession with those overwhelming unknowns, the winning numbers, or you can go online and “play” your own.  LeMay is an innovator in the interactive digital essay, and while you can read “Viral-Ize” and “Resistable” in the pages of his book, you can also go to your computer and click to see what’s there, what’s not, and most importantly, how what we see and what we don’t are equally integral in the making and multiplying of meaning.

Montaigne asked, “What do I know?”  But what if we what we know is nothing?  In this playful and poignant collection, Eric LeMay shows us that nothing is never nothing.  It’s really something.

NB: There’s a fascinating website about In Praise of Nothing that you can find here.