The Brightest Thing in The World: 3 Lectures from the Institute of Failure


“A few possible answers gleaned from this book include: how to mourn a blur, analyze ‘an accident shaped like an umbrella,’ or create a lecture that thinks like a poem. This book sets itself up to fail, calling itself THE BRIGHTEST THING IN THE WORLD And then suddenly it is.”—Jen Bervin


Product Description

The Brightest Thing in The World: 3 Lectures from the Institute of Failure is a collection of essays that touch on seating strategies, Dick Cheney, cuckoo clocks, the Fibonacci series, butterflies and old friends. These threads weave together like a tapestry and by their accumulated resonance create an impression of loss and longing. As in Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, the reader passes through an associative experience. These are the essays of a poet; like a performance of words, each verb is as active as a muscle. While every sentence tends to its end, the reader resists its inevitable conclusion. Layout and design by Sonnenzimmer.

“In these three of Matthew Goulish’s lectures on failure, language, thought, and feeling add up with stunningly multiplicative affect, where scope—conceptual, historical, political, intimate—expands and contracts across discontinuous trajectories of domains and sources. They are lectures resonant without intra-subjective expertise, on failure, of failure, of only the most active, transparent and absorbing synapse-firing, generous kinds.”—Jesse Seldess

“Goulish — using text (and image) to investigate the potential failure of text (among other failures) — resolves to “treat the page as specifically, as a form of direct address, as the lecture treated its moment” and so make each page an act in the service of creative thought. At stake is not the boundary of genre, in other words, but the possibility of the imagination to contain everything at once — from catalogs of ships, to disquisitions on whaling, to a poem, to photographs of a walking tour of Suffolk — and to allow each thing, the real and the unreal, to contribute to imagination’s ability to, as [Ali] Smith puts it.. “know us inside and out.” Writing of this kind contains the magnificent suggestion that there are not two kinds of things in the world — that each is part of one system of thought. It reaches for whatever materials will best serve it, and in doing so, enlarges its scope beyond the present of the page.” — Jenny Hendrix, LA Review of Books.

“On the night of the book launch, Goulish read ‘The Butterfly Catastrophe,’ a work that explores the Fibonacci sequence as well as the strange circumstances surrounding the freezing death of monarch butterflies in 2002. The essay, like much of Goulish’s work, is hypnotic in its subtlety. Propelled by Goulish’s calm presence and careful delivery, the reading was reminiscent of what Stanislavski identified as the kind of quiet theater experience one finds in the lingering shadows of a performance long after the curtain falls. A recent collaborative performance by Hannah Verrill and Matt Shalzi accompanied Goulish’s reading.” — Anthony Romero, ArtWrit

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Weight .5 oz