In her opening, Amy Wright explains: “This essay anchors a central thread of dialogue over a dizzying divide. It weaves a decades-plus-worth of questions and answers from a range of discussions I’ve had with artists, activists, scientists, philosophers, physicians, priests, musicians, and other representatives of the human population. Some of them are famous, some will be, some should be—but all of them refract the light of the unknowable mystery of the self.”
Folding together conversations from a vast web of thinkers like Dorothy Allison, Rae Armantrout, Gerald Stern, Lia Purpura, Raven Jackson, Wendy Walters, Kimiko Hahn, Philanese Slaughter, and many, many more, Paper Concert depicts every individual as a collective in dire need of preservation. If this book is a paper concert, it is a symphony. Just pull up a chair and listen.
I. I Don’t Mean That Swans Are Humane
II. The Thread That Makes the Cloth
III. Sound Travels Through and Around Barriers
IV. Fast Friends
V. It’s Always an Argument
VI. More Human Than Humans
VII. Atomic Bonds
VIII. The Hole That Will Be Left
IX. Going Past the Skin into Another Skin
"Paper Concert is an invitation to slow down and consider complicated questions for which there are no absolute answers."
—"18 Books from Small Presses You'll Love," Buzzfeed
"In the book’s introduction, Wright—an English professor at Austin Peay State University—depicts a spider crafting a vast web as a metaphor for her writing process: '[A]n essayist in miniature, the spider had spun a line as tenuous as the one that starts the fabric of an idea.'. . . Like the skillful spider, Wright’s feat of web-spinning is courageous and bold. Her trust in each glistening thread before her challenges the reader, also, to trust where each one might lead into infinite connections."
—“A Symphony of Listeners,” Chapter 16
"What Wright has done is invent a new form of essay writing, one that highlights subjects ranging from art, nature, sex, and science. She puts the scientists, artists, and filmmakers she interviews in the spotlight."
“A delightful, insightful, and nourishing book. I listened in on old friends and learned about many artists and thinkers I’d never heard of but who I will run out and learn more about. Like the ambitious, miracle-making spider that opens this book, Amy Wright spins a web that connects an array of fields and fields of thought. Touching on art, philosophy, race, class, poetry, ecology, and more, this is a good guide for the present disasters, leading us back along the strong lines of Wright’s web to what is most beautiful and inspiring in the human endeavor.”
—Eleni Sikelianos, author of What I Knew and Make Yourself Happy
“Amy Wright’s inventive composition is a playful and profound interrogation of creativity, freedom and art. Bravo for Paper Concert!”
—Amy Fusselman, author of Idiophone
“When I had the opportunity to consider and publish a substantial portion of Amy Wright’s Paper Concert in The Georgia Review, I was momentarily baffled but then quickly astonished by her sui generis undertaking. The book’s multi-voiced explorations are its greatest strength: because we want to but cannot easily hold them all in mind, Paper Concert is a performance we must, and will, return to again and again.”
—Stephen Corey, author of Startled at the Big Sound: Essays Personal, Literary, and Cultural
“Paper Concert absorbed me, filled out my blood, set me to harmonizing with the music it started in my mind’s ear. Amy Wright has created a new thing in these pages. Her chapters are as tensile as the spider silk she calls back to as a recurring image, and as tenacious in their gleam. This work feels especially important to me now, given the times we are living in. But what I like best about this manuscript is the feeling it gives me of not over-determining the path it’s on. I get the sense of co-discovery alongside Wright’s narrator, as though we’re walking through a dark woods together, making for a dimly-felt lightening of the way at a clearing just ahead.”
—Joni Tevis, Author of The World Is On Fire
“Part fragmented interview, part brilliant, compassionate, and downright urgent act of recording, Amy Wright’s Paper Concert collects the music of cottonwoods, of giant extinct dragonflies, of freedom and feeling and fear, and— rather than pin them down, immobilized, into some curiosity cabinet—sets them into some kind of new air, radiant with some kind of new shine. Braiding meditations on race, identity, intimacy, sexuality, and bodies both physical and spiritual, human and animal, Paper Concert is an exhilarating testament to the heart that drives the observant eye, the synergetic nature of art-making, and the need to contextualize our own obsessions via the articulations of myriad art and artists. This book is not only wonderfully written, but also wonderfully ‘listened,’ and it stands, as Wright herself may say, as the momentary and memorable filling of ‘our own bottomless wells of desire.’ Indeed, it may be a sort of ‘survival manual’ for our times.”
—Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers