Leave Your Body Behind by Sandra Doller

29 Reasons To Read Sandra Doller’s Leave Your Body Behind (Les Figues, 2015)

reviewed by Evan Kleekamp

  1. Leave Your Body Behind is simply and exactly genre-defying in the same way Maggie Nelson suggests D.W. Winnicott’s ordinary devotion is only ordinary devotion in her newest book, The Argonauts.
  1. That is to say, simply and exactly that. Genre-defying.
  1. (The implication here is that you should also read Maggie Nelson’s book and with similar rationale.)
  1. Writing about Doller’s work without reference to other writers writing in the same vein would be dishonest to the scope of the book; with its all-star cast, including Gertrude Stein, Bernadette Mayer, Yoko Ono, George Oppen, Hiromi Ito, and The Ramones, among others.
  1. These figures permeate the book through caption, allusion, and referential example; they form the hanging (floating?) frames of the book’s investigation.
  1. If you are writing an academic paper on contemporary writers engaging with the literary device détournement, this book may be of critical assistance.
  1. Much of the text is essentially existential cameo. It becomes difficult to discern where the book begins or ends, if it begins or ends, or if it is simply a beginning or opening.
  1. But then again, such ways of imagining or theorizing the book are actually mundane compared to the experience of reading, mostly because the text is capable of performing permeability. Things go flying out one ear and into another.

  2. Because who wouldn’t want to dance with all their best friends?

  3. Quoting from Leave Your Body Behind is also incredibly and essentially difficult. (To repeat, simply and exactly that.) The book’s sentences don't really end with the appearance of a period. More often than not periods mark a pause in the same manner deployed and evoked by Stein, meaning sentences go on and on to form larger images, sensations, concepts, and gestures, which may themselves be false, temporary, or contain some hidden truth beyond the sense of the reader.

  4. Which is not to suggest that there is any truth within the text hidden from the reader.

  5. Hidden truths—if they do exist within the text—may be beyond the scope of the writer, who seems to show us more than she could possibly ever tell, as in how could she possibly be able to tell what she was meaning?  Which I think is the best place to start when attempting to interpret such a book.

  6. Actually I’m quite convinced that nothing is hidden or obtrusively truthful about the text, which is why I think the best place to start is exactly to not interpret this book.

  7. There is also the issue of quoting from a text that so willingly quotes other authors.

  8. It also seems appropriate to compare quoting from Leave Your Body Behind to expecting the reader to view a 2x2-inch swath of a sizeable painting with the expectation that they be able to discern what the painting was about.

  9. As if painting was about anything. (So why then prose?). 

  10. Nonetheless: “This cloth says imperfections are natural. It’s only natural that the corner store should feel like me. Like I do. Like a girl with a guitar and nobody. Like the back room of a thrift zine. Is that enough reference. I almost started speaking German there.”

  11. Or: “Why that GI take my bicycle? Why, that GI is stealing my bicycle. Chase him she did, I do, she do, Yoda. Catch him, catch the GI with the shiny hair and nose and epaulets.”

  12. Or my favorite: “I never could determine their coordinates once they were in Germany, Scotland, auf auf barks the dog.”

  13. Get it? If you don’t: this book is highly self-referential.

  14. But in an exciting and naughty way that somehow manages to remain pious. . .

  15. Doller’s writing in Leave Your Body Behind is refreshingly anti-narrative, or at least it finds narrative possibility in eschewing traditional, rigid definitions of plot, character significance, or similar storytelling devices. Instead, we get limitless play and the circumnavigation of bodies.

  16. Lyric free-play in its truest sense: play on the surface of words.

  17. If anything, Leave Your Body Behind is 134 pages of experimental linguistic dance choreographed via the mouth and mind. It is the mind on dance if dance were a kind of drug. And who is to say it isn’t?

  18. For example, I am very concerned with the following sentence: “Rare holy grapefruit of the real.”

  19. I must find this elusive grapefruit. . .

  20. As a text without linear plot, Leave Your Body Behind is ripe with intertextual meaning. Characters come and go, but the text marches forward. There is something dangerously inspiring about Leave Your Body Behind’s relentless and broad strokes, its conflation of poetry and prose and all the genres in between; all this accounts for the characteristic eye-opening and jaw-shattering linguistic appeal found in Doller’s show of the notebook.

  21. Which is maybe why the title is a sort of suggestion, or challenge. . .

  22. Or even a theory or a question. . .but for who?