On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

On the Commerce of Thinking: Of Books and Bookstores

Synopsis

This engaging book by one of France's leading contemporary philosophers celebrates the particular communication of thoughts that takes place by means of the business of writing, producing, and selling books. Nancy's reflection is born out of his relation to the bookstore, in the first placehis neighborhood one, but beyond that any such "perfumery, rotisserie, patisserie," as he calls them, dispensaries "of scents and flavors through which something like a fragrance or bouquet of the book is divined, presumed, sensed." On the Commerce of Thinking is a brilliant semiology of the cultural practice that begins with the unique character of the writer's voice and culminates in a customer's crossing the bookstore threshold, package under arm, on the way home to a comfortable chair. It's also an understated yetpersuasive plea in favor of an endangered species.

Excerpt

David Wills

The French title of Jean-Luc Nancy’s book on books is Sur le commerce des pensées. I found myself obliged to render the plural pensées, with its echoes of Pascal and the rest (although perhaps not all the way to those small, delicate flowers we call “pansies”), as “thinking.” Why, one might well wonder, would English be uncomfortable with a plural such as “thoughts” in the context of an essay on books and the bookstore? Why would that seem to imply an unacceptable crassness, or indeed commodification, of thinking, when that is precisely one of the things Nancy wants to evoke by means of the word commerce?

Answers to such questions would have to begin at the level of sonority—in French pensée (singular) is homonymic with pensées (plural)—and extend as far as the Germanic etymological network . . .

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