Occasional Desire: Essays

Occasional Desire: Essays

by David Lazar


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In his new collection of essays, Occasional Desire, David Lazar meditates on random violence and vanished phone booths, on the excessive relationship to jewelry that links Kobe Bryant and Elizabeth Taylor, on Hitchcock, Francis Bacon, and M. F. K. Fisher. He explores, in his concentrically self-aware, amused, and ironic voice, what it means to be occasionally aware that we are surviving by our wits, and that our desires, ulterior or obvious, are what keep us alive. Lazar also turns his attention on the essay itself, affording us a three-dimensional look at the craft and the art of reading and writing a literary form that maps the world as it charts the peregrinations of the mind.

Lazar is especially interested in the trappings of memory, the trapdoors of memory, the way we gild or codify, select, soften, and self-delude ourselves based on our understanding of the past. His own process of selection and reflection reminds us of how far this literary form can take us, bound only by the limits of desire and imagination.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780803246386
Publisher: Nebraska Paperback
Publication date: 09/01/2013
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

David Lazar is a professor of creative writing and English at Columbia College, Chicago and the founding editor of Hotel Amerika. His works include After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the EssaysThe Body of Brooklyn, Powder Town, and Essaying the Essay.


Table of Contents

Unfamiliar Essays

Calling for His Past 3

Manhattan Cab 11

Across the River 12

The City Always Speaks: London, New York, San Francisco 21

The Coat 30

Ostensible Occasions

Occasional Desire: On the Essay and the Memoir 39

Queering the Essay 61

Reading "New Year's Eve" 68

Playing Ourselves: Pseudodocumentary and Persona 82

The Useable Past of M. F. K. Fisher: An Essay on Projects 92

On Mentors 116

The Art of Survival

On Dating 131

Death, Death, Death, Death, Death 144

On Gifts 165

Self-Portrait: Francis Bacon's Deformity 194

On the Art of Survival: North by Northwest 203

Acknowledgments 217

What People are Saying About This

Wayne Koestenbaum

“The spirits of past masters (Montaigne and Charles Lamb among them) animate and infuse the enthralling essays of David Lazar, a succinct virtuoso, whose gift is rueful, charm-filled introspection. His recollections and avowals unfurl with stellar melodiousness, and with a skilled comic’s perfect timing.”—Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Humiliation

Lia Purpura

“David Lazar is a master of shimmering threshold moments, where acts of assertion and discovery face off (or is it hold hands?). Offering startling intimacies, gentle beckonings, and the severities of hard-won truths, Lazar is fearless about this core belief: investigations of form and self are one and the same adventure.”—Lia Purpura, author of Rough Likeness: Essays

Phillip Lopate

“David Lazar is both a charmer and a challenger. His supple, cultivated mind is constantly moving, full of surprises; his puckish wit and exacting standards raise the bar for all contemporary literary nonfiction. This is an exciting collection, drawing strength from both the grand essay tradition and the cutting edge, and it is highly recommended.”—Phillip Lopate, editor of The Art of the Personal Essay

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