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Fordham University Press
On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

by Jean-Luc Nancy, David Wills


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On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

Jean-Luc Nancy's On the Commerce of Thinking concerns the particular communication of thoughts that takes place by means of the business of writing, producing, and selling books. His reflection is born out of his relation to the bookstore, in the first place his neighborhood one, but beyond that any such "perfumery, rotisserie, patisserie," as he calls them, dispensaries "of scents and flavors through which something like a fragrance or bouquet of the book is divined, presumed, sensed."

On the Commerce of Thinking is thus not only something of a semiology of the specific cultural practice that begins with the unique character of the writer's voice and culminates in a customer crossing the bookstore threshold, package under arm, on the way home to a comfortable chair, but also an understated yet persuasive plea in favor of an endangered species.

In evoking the peddler who, in times past, plied the streets with books and pamphlets literally hanging off him, Nancy emphasizes the sensuality of this commerce and reminds us that this form of consumerism is like no other, one that ends in an experience-reading-that is the beginning of a limitless dispersion, metamorphosis, and dissemination of ideas.

Making, selling, and buying books has all the elements of the exchange economy that Marx analyzed—from commodification to fetishism—yet each book retains throughout an absolute and unique value, that of its subject. With reading, it gets repeatedly reprinted and rebound. For Nancy, the book thus functions only if it remains at the same time open and shut, like some Moebius strip. Closed, it represents the Idea and takes its place in a canon by means of its monumental form and the title and author's name displayed on its spine. But it also opens itself to us, indeed consents to being shaken to its core, in being read each time anew.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780823230365
Publisher: Fordham University Press
Publication date: 06/15/2009
Edition description: 4
Pages: 84
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jean-Luc Nancy is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Université Marc Bloch, Strasbourg. His wide-ranging thought is developed in many books, including Expectation: Philosophy, Literature ; The Possibility of a World ; The Banality of Heidegger ; The Disavowed Community ; and, with Adèle Van Reeth, Coming (all Fordham).

David Wills is Professor of French Studies and Comparative Literature at Brown University. His major work, on the originary technicity of the human, is developed in three books: Prosthesis (Stanford, 1995), Dorsality (Minnesota, 2008), and Inanimation (Minnesota, 2016). He has translated various works by Jacques Derrida, including the forthcoming Theory and Practice (Chicago, 2018).

Table of Contents

Translator's Foreword: Thinking Singular Plural xiii

On the Commerce of Thinking of Books and Bookstores 1

The Idea and Character of the Book 8

The Book's End in Itself 13

The People of the Book 16

Interminable Reading 22

The Publication of the Unpublished 27

Book Open and Closed 31

The Scents of the Bookstore 38

The Commerce of Thinking 43

The Matter of Books 46

Electronic Supplement, Binary Reprise, Digital Counterpoint 49

Notes 58

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