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Neatness Counts

Essays on the Writer’s Desk

2006
Author:

Kevin Kopelson

Neatness Counts

An intimate view of literary work space

In Neatness Counts, Kevin Kopelson offers a series of meditations on how orderliness, chaos, and other physical states correspond with both the exhilaration of production and the desperation of writer's block. Focusing on Elizabeth Bishop, Marcel Proust, Roland Barthes, Tom Stoppard, and Bruce Chatwin, Neatness Counts is at once critical and creative, examining how various writers's work habits relate to their published work.

The charm and brilliance of Kopelson’s works lie in their ability to do double duty—as close analysis of important literary and cultural texts, and as free-ranging, impressionistic commentary.

Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Andy Warhol and Queen’s Throat

In Neatness Counts, Kevin Kopelson reflects on the poetics of the desk-rolltop or bureau-plat, cluttered or bare, the nestlike desk, the schematic desk, the dramatic desk, the dramatic lack of any such furniture. Exploring the topography of literary creation by way of the topography of work space, Kopelson, one of today’s most important critics, offers a series of meditations on how orderliness, chaos, and other physical states correspond with both the exhilaration of production and the desperation of writer's block.

Focusing on the poet Elizabeth Bishop, the novelist Marcel Proust, the critic Roland Barthes, the playwright Tom Stoppard, and the travel writer Bruce Chatwin, Neatness Counts is at once critical and creative, examining how various writers's work habits relate to their published work. Kopelson also considers desks of his own—one that had belonged to an older brother, one he borrowed from a messy friend, one now shared with a partner. And by pursuing these two lines of inquiry to their unlikely but enlightening conclusions, Kopelson both fabricates a virtual library of literary insight and commemorates an era in which the term “desktop” didn’t denote one’s computer screen.

Neatness Counts

Kevin Kopelson is professor of English at the University of Iowa. His books include, most recently, The Queer Afterlife of Vaslav Nijinsky.

Neatness Counts

The charm and brilliance of Kopelson’s works lie in their ability to do double duty—as close analysis of important literary and cultural texts, and as free-ranging, impressionistic commentary.

Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Andy Warhol and Queen’s Throat

Neatness Counts is full of intriguing tidbits. [Kopelson] has a very charming style.

The Canberra Times

Though there are moments when, amidst the swirl of his ideas, we fear ourselves lost, Kopelson inevitably pulls us back on track, just in the nick of time, leaving us breathless, dazzled, and eager for another ride.

NewPages

Neatness Counts

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Desk Work
Bedtime Story
Same Place Twice
Lightning Strikes
Movable Type
From the Notebooks
Works Cited
Permissions

Index