The Gift

A novel by Barbara Browning

A sometimes funny, sometimes catastrophically sad story of performance art, ukuleles, dance, and our attempts and failures to make contact.

May 9, 2017
5.5 x 8.25 | 248 Pages
Trade Paper

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.

ISBN: 978-1-56689-468-5.

$15.95

Description

In the midst of Occupy, Barbara Andersen begins spamming people indiscriminately with ukulele covers of sentimental songs. A series of inappropriate intimacies ensues, including an erotically charged correspondence and then collaboration with an extraordinarily gifted and troubled musician living in Germany.

Barbara Browning teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. She is the author of the novels The Correspondence Artist (winner of a Lambda Literary Award) and I’m Trying to Reach You (short-listed for the Believer Book Award). She also makes dances, poems, and ukulele cover tunes.

Reviews

The Gift is a smart, funny, heartbreaking and often sexy delight of a novel that presses hard against the boundaries of where literary and artistic performances begin and end.” New York Times Sunday Book Review

“It’s tempting to compare her to popular writers of ‘autofiction,’ such as Chris Kraus, Sheila Heti, and Ben Lerner—all of whom she mentions in her work—but Browning exaggerates the genre to particularly postmodern, batty, and charming extremes.” The New Yorker

“The narrator has an exceptionally graceful page presence: loony and profound, vulnerable and ingenuous, Barbara acts to unify the book’s central concerns, giving its intellectual flights of fancy a palpable human pulse.” Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Browning takes a book that could easily exist in hypotheticals, layers, and masks and instead grounds it in the chaos of its time, including the disruptive politics of the Occupy movement, the infamous Pussy Riot protests and arrests in Russia, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The effect is indeed intimate but never inappropriate. Browning is working at the edges of her craft, and it’s utterly thrilling to watch. A delicious love letter to readers and co-conspirators everywhere.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“[The Gift] is a meandering, quasi-academic meditation on performance art that is somehow breezy and juicy enough to bring to the beach.” —The New Yorker Culture Desk

“Despite, or perhaps because of, the borderline dystopian reality in which we now live, there’s more of a reason than ever to explore what it means to create a truth, if not the truth. Browning does so beautifully in The Gift, to such a degree that there ceases to be a delineation between what’s ‘real’ and which characters are virtually identical, save for slight name changes. . . . But while the blurriness of what is and isn’t real exists for the reader, there is never any doubt that Browning is in full control of her story.” —Nylon

“[The Gift is] a smart and joyful autofictional game of a novel that suggests we shouldn’t underestimate the level of sensuality and vulnerability in even our more transactional or semi-anonymous contacts.” —The Millions

“The Gift is an unusual novel about the performance of life and the life of performance that tells us empathy and passion are deeply political, and that fiction that flips a finger to the boundary between storytelling and the body is an expression of hope and a way toward a different future. In so many ways, Browning’s creation is a beautiful meditation on art, and a balm for readers in these difficult times.” —Bookforum

“Browning’s sinuous, seductive exploration of ‘inappropriate intimacies’ is one of the most exhilarating and provocative books I’ve read in ages.” —Nylon

“Where does Barbara Browning end and Barbara Andersen begin? What is the difference between fact and fiction? Those are some of the intriguing questions raised by this enigmatic and mysterious tale.” —Booklist

“The Gift chronicles a woman’s journey through art and experience in the context of the Occupy movement, with observations about our modern attempts to form meaningful connection.” —The Millions

“…Browning’s writing is joyful, even radiant, at points; this work of autofiction is overflowing with sexuality, sensuality, intellectual and artistic curiosity, and wonder.” —Nylon

“Through this addictive, brainy and vibrant novel, which straddles nonfiction and fiction, Browning celebrates an unabashed passion for art and togetherness in a world muddled by assumed intimacy and inherent skepticism.” —Star Tribune

“The Gift is a book that allows us to live undefined and free at our wavering edges.”  —The Collagist

“As if to explain all those mysterious ukulele covers, Barbara takes us deeper than ever into her inappropriate intimacies, into the baseline feminist communism of gift economies, into the eros of collaboration, into the pain of wanting more than you want to want.” —The Rumpus

“Barbara’s inviting voice leads us through spirited digressions on performance, family, shame, and the history of gift-giving, each examined with remarkable aplomb and generosity.” —Milkweed Blog

“Barbara Browning’s novel The Gift is a brilliant work of autofiction.” —Largehearted Boy

“In this disarming and hopeful novel, Barbara Browning explores the role of art in our lives and relationships with humor, warmth, and playful eroticism.” —The Riveter

The Gift is about the connections we make with other human beings, whether in passing, in person, or via email (or even in our imagination). It feels rare to read an uplifting book . . but (the) Barbara’s zest for life is extremely contagious. Anyway, read this book, I promise it is worth it.” —Lenny

“Mischievous, highly evolved, and tenderly executed, Barbara Browning’s The Gift lives up to its title.” —Unabridged Bookstore

“Through music, art, dance, and the various means of communication at our disposal, Browning makes us ponder age-old questions . . . Browning’s The Gift is sure to bring some enlightenment to your life.” —Warby Parker Blog

“Barbara Browning’s gift is delicacy’s embrace of edge, daring’s embrace of openness, dance’s embrace of song, in open tuning: a blues for intimacy’s constant rupture and repair, held out in simple and miraculous gesture. I mean to say that her sentences are carefully held out hands signing the theory and practice of generosity, speaking with such plain obscurity that what has been covered—the lonesome miracle of what it is to be together—is now visible.” —Fred Moten

“Barbara Browning’s winning and expansive novel describes one woman’s intimacies with lovers, strangers, culture and ideas, and family and friends during several months in NY between 2012 and 2013. Browning brilliantly synthesizes her work as a scholar and an artist into a single identity, becoming at once a master monologist, storyteller, and historian of her amorphous tribe.” —Chris Kraus