Finishing books

In our Singapore discussion, Matt Sparke reminded me of a book I read several years ago when beginning my PhD but haven’t looked at since – Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies. Despite what the title might suggest, it’s actually a reading of the Freikorps and in particular the literary works that ex-soldiers produced (sometimes ‘literary’ in a very loose sense). Matt’s point was that it was a good example of de/reterritorialisation in the sense that Deleuze and Guattari mean it in Anti-Oedipus. His suggestion was that many readings of de/reterritorialisation miss what D&G were trying to show, and that in Anti-Oedipus something more akin to de/relocalisation or de/recentralisation is what is implied. I think this is right, though I did point out that in A Thousand Plateaus they do use the terms in a more obviously biological/environmental sense with the bird and the refrain, and in so doing engage with some of the early 20th century theorists of territoriality, and the ethological work of Jakob von Uexküll.

Anyway, I took another look at Theweleit’s monstrous two volume book today, and its just as disturbing, impressive and sprawling as I’d remembered. What struck me today, and probably wouldn’t have registered with a beginning PhD student, was the section on finishing books, entitled ‘The Last Page’ (Vol II, p. 495)

A book is ‘completed’ not so much because the author has ‘finished’ thinking it through and writing it, but because of a decision to do so, because of financial or other reasons.

Comparing quotes with the original, checking dates, checking whether much of what I wrote ‘off the top of my head’ really relates to the authors I have referred to (it often doesn’t), augmenting incomplete footnotes, inventing sources for quotes I can’t find again, making the manuscript readable, makling corrections, writing the foreword I never got round to, and so on and so on. In the process reading my own work to the point where I doubt I was all there when I wrote it.

It took six months to get the manuscript ready for publication. It was a period worse than all the years of writing… You shouldn’t do this sort of thing very often; it’s not worth it…

I’ve omitted some of the more personal reflections because what he says here is – if not quite universal – surely something anyone who has finished a major project can relate to, at least in part.

This entry was posted in Gilles Deleuze, Jakob von Uexküll, Klaus Theweleit, Publishing, Territory. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Finishing books

  1. Pingback: Reading at ANU | Progressive Geographies

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