To want to reveal; to want to reveal enough; to desire; to desire in the right way, the right amount: in her debut book, Rachel James narrates the desiring subject’s nuanced and entangled intimacies with histories of power. How, in other words, under patriarchy, against misogyny, within capitalist strictures, is knowledge shaped, contained, and transferred? Tracing traditions of theater, pedagogy, and faith, An Eros Encyclopedia offers up desire and the attunement to its many objects as the atmosphere of a life—a method to navigate, perceive, and relate against the illusion of separation.
Rachel James's An Eros Encyclopedia is the winner of the 2019 Carolyn Bush Award.
Rachel James (b. Toronto, Canada) is a poet and artist with a background in experimental ethnography. She has presented her work in the United States, Canada, and Europe, including at Miguel Abreu Gallery and Essex Flowers in New York City, Kelly Writers House in Philadelphia, The New Gallery in Calgary, and Totaldobže in Riga. Her poems have been published by The Recluse and Form IV. As an audio documentarian she has worked with BBC Radio, The Magnum Foundation, WNYC, The Organist, and others. She holds an MFA from Bard College, an MA from the University of Toronto, and has taught seminars on performance scores and essay films. She lives in New York City.
One of the most extraordinary books; I was instantly addicted, “restless nemesis / how can I / now that you / revolved / around the sun.” Encyclopedic cash of desire, these pages will have you considering where to lay your spirit and from whose hands to wrest back your power. Rachel James is a writer who can change our lives.
Effervescent, tender, brilliant, and tremendously moving, Rachel James’s An Eros Encyclopedia is a meditation on the fecundity of what is open—wounds, holes, doors, beds, mouths, asses—an extraordinarily heterodox and delicately wicked paean to absences that are vital. James lays bare the vicissitudes of a life of creature encounters, those collisions and the shocks of pain therein; she explores the bewilderments of connection along with what aches—what is abraded, is broken, and the unexpected dispensations of that rawness. An Eros Encyclopedia is incandescent, a fireball compressed into a series of meticulous whispered confidences. Awash with bravado and sensuality, this book is a performance of the power of poetics. In taking up narrative whilst abandoning (the burden of) representation James has made a new thing: Something alive, singular and generous. Read this book right away.
There is something extraterrestrial in Rachel James’s dauntless, frugal eroticism. James commands herself and then she commands you. Her alphabetic chorus of empirical, imperative bluntness from the quiet labyrinth of existence takes you fathomless into her sea.
—Vi Khi Nao
Psychoanalysis said Eros was a mischief maker, an ancient child playing hide and seek, where the pleasure of language for language’s sake is the most pure stakes of the game. Come read the luminous incantation that is Rachel James’s An Eros Encyclopedia and remember: "You are an acceptable chaos discipline, God of provocation and humor, You are an explosively elegant being.”
Published by Wendy’s Subway, 160 pgs, 13 × 20 cm, Softcover, 2022, 978-1-7359242-1-2