An essay by Amy Fusselman
July 3, 2018 • 5 x 7.75 • 132 pages • 978-1-56689-513-2
Recovery, motherhood, queerness—Idiophone is a striking meditation on risk-taking in art, from a distinctively feminist angle.
Leaping from ballet to quiltmaking, from the The Nutcracker to an Annie-B Parson interview, Idiophone is a strikingly original meditation on risk-taking and provocation in art and a unabashedly honest, funny, and intimate consideration of art-making in the context of motherhood, and motherhood in the context of addiction. Amy Fusselman’s compact, beautifully digressive essay feels both surprising and effortless, fueled by broad-ranging curiosity, and, fundamentally, joy.
About the Author
Amy Fusselman is the author of three previous books of nonfiction. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and three children.
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“A recursive prose-poem contemplating addiction, dance, and the need for pathbreaking art. . . . [Fusselman’s] layering of her thematic ideas gives the book the feel of a mood piece—like a Steve Reich composition where riffs phase in and out—which makes it a pleasure on a sensual level.” —Kirkus
“There is no mind quite like Amy Fusselman’s, and to be allowed inside it via these deft, singular, surprising sentences is to enter a vibrant wonderland where everything is new and nothing is a bore.” —Elisa Albert
“One of Fusselman’s great talents has always been the construction of juxtapositions and equivalencies, and in this book, she doesn’t disappoint: a mother is a small iridescent paper circle, an EMT is a baby bunny, alcoholism and maternal ambivalence take their places next to stacks of pancakes and a fourteen-foot-tall sculpture from Vanuatu. In outrageously simple, inexplicably tender prose, Fusselman presses on her nouns until they break, and then, after denotation is no longer their most important job, they perform quite a bit of unexpected and marvelous work. This book is going to haunt me.” —Sarah Manguso
“I’m hesitant to offer too much detail about this marvelous, necessary essay because a major part of Idiophone’s glory lies within its many surprises. What a joy to never quite know where the next page—the next line even—will take you! Yet, since all the book’s curvy beelines of thought spring from the deft hand of a fantastic stylist, Idiophone also showcases a palpable and idiosyncratic control. Reader, make yourself ready for a love letter to motherhood, for an examination of the limits of performance, and for a battle cry to experimental voices—all of it powered writing that pirouettes to its own fabulous music.” —Elena Passarello, author and Nutcracker enthusiast
“This book, about ballet and beauty, philosophy and family, reinforces Amy Fusselman’s status as one of our best interrogators of how we live now, and how we should live. As always, Fusselman asks tough questions and answers them with rare lyricism and candor.” —Dave Eggers
“Fusselman’s prose has the delicate, tensile musculature of a ballet dancer, and the best thing you can do for yourself is surrender to it, let Fusselman take you where she wants to go, and then allow yourself to spring off the platform she has provided.” —Nylon
“Toward the end of Fusselman’s luminous new lyric essay creation, Idiophone, she writes: ‘To see it all at once like in a mirror, to be in one world and to multiply . . .’ and that comes pretty close to the overall mood of this weird, playful, and sometimes gloomy book. It feels sharply focused and almost suffocating at times while there are some moments that feel scattershot and a little off the rails—like the narrator is trying to show you the whole world. Going from the interior worlds of The Nutcracker to her relationship with her mom, Fusselman (one of my favorite people in the book world, I have to admit) investigates the various stagings and preconceptions of art (including quilting!) and being human. A refreshingly wild and ambitious essay that looks like an epic poem but reads like a speeding train set driven by mice, Idiophone is some strange magic.” —Kevin Sampsell of Powell’s
“Idiophone is about the various ways in which humans—especially humans who, having reached the middle of their journey, are entering the dark wood—use alcohol, magic, imagination, and art to access at least the possibility of a transcendence in which they no longer believe. A furious, necessary, convincing rejuvenation of writer and reader, not to mention a brilliant reading of and against The Nutcracker.” —David Shields
“When I try to describe this book to people, I honestly leave them with their mouths agape.” —WICN’s Inquiry
Praise for Amy Fusselman
“In this memorable, beautifully structured book, [Fusselman] gives us more than ironic asides or a catalog of her pop-culture . . . she makes the world strange again, a place where dying and making life are equally mysterious and miraculous activities.” —Time Out New York
“Fusselman’s conversational, intimate voice and heartfelt musings charm the reader. In less than 100 pages she movingly conjures an impressive emotional depth and range, making The Pharmacist’s Mate seem like a much longer work.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“This sweet, sincere story of Fusselman’s attempts to get pregnant by artificial insemination and to come to terms with her father’s death is told in a wholly original epigrammatic style.” —Vogue
“Ms. Fusselman’s book affected me deeply. The talent displayed therein was unnerving.” —Zadie Smith
“A fascinating and daresay essential meditation on childhood, parenthood, and the importance of wild spaces for those wild creatures known as kids.” —Dave Eggers
“I yield to no one in my admiration for Amy Fusselman’s work. Her new book, Savage Park, further explores with astonishing power, eloquence, precision, and acid humor her obsessive, necessary theme: the gossamer-thin separation between life and death.” —David Shields
“In this unusually refreshing meditation (which reads like a novel), we are given a tour of the space around and within us. With poetic efficiency Amy Fusselman reveals what makes us savage or not; why secret, wild spaces are essential; and why playing should be taken seriously.” —Philippe Petit, high-wire artist