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Encounters at the End of the Book: Caring for Authors and Exchanging Ideas

Published onSep 01, 2023
Encounters at the End of the Book: Caring for Authors and Exchanging Ideas

At punctum books, we center everything we do around the principle of care: of ourselves, our authors, and our authors’ work. Making books, from manuscript acquisition to editing and typesetting to publication and beyond, revolves around constant communication and dialogue between writers, editors, and designers. In order to develop a more dedicated community around the publication of academic books, we started a group for authors and punctum staff members that meets every month to discuss everyone’s various books, writing methods, and other topics of interest, such as routines of self-care, what everyone is reading, etc. This group has been extremely helpful in fostering connections between writers who normally would be producing their work in relative isolation. We think this group is important because research and writing often feels like a solitary and lonely activity and a group dedicated to sharing research and writing activities strengthens what we’ve always known is true but is rarely acknowledged in institutional intellectual environments: research needs to be collaborative and thinking does not just arise from singular minds. Everything we think comes from other minds and we want to more proactively enable this and make this more visible.

Building on the momentum of punctum’s author group, we are excited to announce a new series, Encounters at the End of the Book. This series is a space where authors come together, as the name says, to “encounter” one another and each other’s work after publication (“at the end of the book”), where new dialogues and collaborative brainstorms can be ignited. Encounters exists on punctum’s Vimeo channel and hosts interviews, panel discussions, and readings. 

Our earliest episodes feature punctum authors Ármann Jakobsson (The Troll Inside You), Jeff T. Johnson (Trouble Songs & The Book / Or / The Woods), KJ Cerankowski (Suture: Trauma and Trans Becoming), and Marc Lafia (Image Photograph and Everyday Cinema) guided in discussion by poet, medievalist, and beloved punctum author A.W. Strouse (My Gay Middle Ages & Gender Trouble Couplets). Topics range from the mythology of trolls in Iceland to the history of the photographic image in the digital age to the experience of writing in a second language to favorite books to read in bed and beyond. 

Encounters at the End of the Book | Interview with Ármann Jakobsson
Encounters at the End of the Book | Interview with KJ Cerankowski
Encounters at the End of the Book | Interview with Jeff T. Johnson
Encounters at the End of the Book | Interview with Marc Lafia

In an episode with Robert Leib, author of Exoanthropology: Dialogues with AI, punctum’s staff members converse with Leib about his experience spending a year with his philosophy students in dialogue with GPT-3’s hive mind Sophie-Kermit, exploring the canon of Western philosophy. As the use of AI continues to rise in every sector of life, raising troubling ethical, social, and cultural questions, the episode offers a timely exploration of the boundaries (or lack thereof) between “human” and “machine.” 

Encounters at the End of the Book | Panel Discussion with Robert Leib and Sophie Kermit

From across the Atlantic, members of the Oyo State Chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) take turns reading pages from The Goths and Other Stories by Tis Kaoru Zamler-Carhart.  

Encounters at the End of the Book | Nigerian Authors (ANA) Oyo State Chapter read "The Goths and Other Stories"

Earlier this year, punctum partnered with Les Figues Press as part of our Special Collections initiative to republish the back catalogues of independent presses run by structurally marginalized persons and groups that have shut down or become dormant. Les Figues author Kim Rosenfield discusses the republication of her book, re: evolution in conversation with Jack Skelley (author of Fear of Kathy Acker). Rosenfield and Skelley reflect on the time between the two publications of re: evolution, on how both authors emerged from the rich art community at the Beyond Baroque Literary Art Center, and on the meeting of their intellectual interests around eschatology. 

Encounters at the End of the Book | Interview with Kim Rosenfield and Jack Skelley

In our most recent episode, poet, playwright, drag artist, and independent scholar Max Yeshaye Brumberg-Kraus, reads selected excerpts from The(y)ology: Mythopoetics for Queer/Trans Liberation. Brumberg-Kraus shares carefully chosen excerpts that explore the role of myths and mythmaking as part of the queer and trans liberational movement. 

Encounters at the End of the Book | A reading by Max Yeshaye Brumberg-Kraus

And this is just the start. Encounters will bring together a diverse lineup of authors with a wealth of talent and knowledge about a wide variety of interdisciplinary topics in the months to come. This includes an interview between Sean Gurd, director of punctum’s new Tangent imprint, dedicated to experimental work in antiquity studies, and author Mario Telo. Their dialogue will delve into Telo's recent book, Resistant Form: Aristophanes and the Comedy of Crisis. Also forthcoming is a reading from Naomi Ortiz’s Rituals for Climate Change: A Crip Struggle for Ecojustice and a discussion between Agnes Malinowska and Joela Jacobs, the editors behind the forthcoming book, Microbium: The Neglected Lives of Micro-matter

Encounters interleaves the working lives and living works of authors. Taking a deep dive into authors’ research and writing, the series cultivates a collective space where creativity flourishes and ideas take new shapes in lively conversations. Encounters at the End of the Book testifies to the transformative power of an unbounded open knowledge commons. We offer a counterpoint to the myth that research and writing are a solitary path and instead embrace the hive mind, where thoughts rebound and volley. True intellectual nourishment stems not from the minds of supposedly singular geniuses, but from the richness of relationality and interconnection. 

Join us as we celebrate the untold stories, the hidden connections, and the shared endeavors that infuse our literary cosmos with vibrant life. Welcome to a space where authors are cherished and the boundaries of creativity are stretched to the limits. 

Welcome to Encounters at the End of the Book.

Banner Image: Manolo Valdés, “Untitled,” (2010-2011)

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