I didn’t realize when I requested this slim book of essays from the library that all nine pieces in it are also in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces, which I’ve been meaning to read since, um, 2013 but haven’t yet, but that’s OK: Perec is great, and I find small books like this charming. The pieces range from literary criticism (like the opening piece, which is about Robert Antelme’s L’espèce humaine) to the more clearly personal (like “Some of the Things I Really Must Do Before I Die”, which is a list of 37 items). Questions of organization and categorization come up repeatedly, whether in the title piece or in the excellent “‘Think/Classify'”, which is probably my favorite piece in the book. Throughout, there are a bunch of lists, which I love. Perec talks about his writing life from various angles—the kinds of writing he does, the objects that surround him as he works (in a great piece called “Notes Concerning the Objects that are on my Work-table”), what interests him. He writes about reading, too, in an essay called “Reading: A Socio-Physiological Outline,” in which he says this: “Reading isn’t merely to read a text, to decipher signs, to survey lines, to explore pages, to traverse a meaning; it isn’t merely the abstract communion between author and reader, the mystical marriage between the Idea and the Ear. It is, at the same time, the noise of the Métro, or the swaying of a railway compartment, or the heat of the sun on a beach and the shouts of the children playing a little way off, or the sensation of hot water in the bath, or the waiting for sleep…”

My other favorite piece in this collection is “Approaches to What?”, in which Perec talks about how the “daily papers talk of everything except the daily” and wonders: “What’s really going on, what we’re experiencing, the rest, all the rest, where is it?” I love his suggestions for exploring the ordinary in this piece: “Describe your street. Describe another street. Compare” and “Make an inventory of your pockets, of your bag. Ask yourself about the provenance, the use, what will become of each of the objects you take out” and “How many movements does it take to dial a phone number. Why?”

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