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Mary Ruefle

My Private Property

My Private Property

By Mary Ruefle

  • Author of Madness, Rack, and Honey (“One of the wisest books I’ve read in years,” The New York Times) and Trances of the Blast, Mary Ruefle continues to be one of the most dazzling poets in America. My Private Property, comprised of short prose pieces, is a brilliant and charming display of her humor, deep imagination, mindfulness, and play.

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  • Mary Ruefle’s My Private Property is a book that, if not read carefully and to its very last words, almost invites the reader to underestimate it. . . . In her recent work, Ruefle can seem like a supernally well-read person who has grown bored with what smartness looks like, and has grown attracted to the other side. Some of her narrators here come across as inconsistent, unsure and even inarticulate, which is not the same as dumb. She is not writing with a prescription, or at least not one for this earth. Nor is she celebrating the commonplace. She is concentrating on one thing at a time and doing something that, depending on how the light strikes it, can look like weirding out or being very serious.
    Ben Ratliff, The New York Times

    This is a book you want to read slowly, to savor both for what it says and how Ruefle says it. And even more remarkable is the way she lures you, the reader, in, and gets you to suspend your disbelief. I do not know of another book like My Private Property.
    John Yau, Hyperallergic

    The property that Ruefle deems private is the impalpable nature of the inner life we all share; it is at once ours and everyone’s. . . . Ruefle has shown a talent for elevating her acute observations and narrative inclination well above mere anecdote to create quietly disquieting moments—a literature of barbed ambiguity and unresolved disruption.
    Albert Mobilio, Bookforum

    [R]eading her collection My Private Property, I’m struck by the conversational quality of this new work, by its anthropological spirit, and by its stubborn emphasis on the facts as Ruefle has found them.
    Lorin Stein, The Paris Review

    Here we see the fruitful possibilities of my-ness, of privacy, of property, that are leagues deeper than the frail ghosts of these concepts that currently carry currency. Ruefle’s work is a guide and a gift, a chance to find ourselves (and our selves) in a world in which the self is not an enclosure, but an opening.
    Nathan Goldman, Kenyon Review

    Mary Ruefle is, in this humble bookseller’s opinion, the best prose-writing poet in America. (And one of our best poets, too.) My Private Property, her latest collection of stories, essays, and asides, is as joyous and singular a book as you’ll read.
    Stephen Sparks, Literary Hub

    The writing recalls fables, in that contained narratives and simple premises turn to reveal something of the human predicament. But far from offering moral instruction, Ruefle tunes into an unsettling and enlivening strangeness. . . . Playing through distinct notes of knowing and unknowing, Ruefle’s writing strikes a chord that resonates in psychic and social realms.
    Publishers Weekly

    This collection’s sensations are marvelous small hoof kicks all over.
    Connor Stratton, Full Stop

    My Private Property is pure magic. It dazzles and moves the reader to a deeper understanding of the place sadness holds in their lives. . . . Insightful, emotive, and brimming with empathy, My Private Property is a masterwork of love for the world and others in it.
    Trevor Ketner, The Bind

    Ruefle collapses the boundaries between the personal, political, and metaphysical.

    In My Private Property, all of life can be mined for meaning — the pieces concern themselves with the small and the large without making value distinctions between the two. Ruefle deals as frequently with mundane matters — a Christmas tree, feeding a finch, crumbs on a kitchen counter — as with those capital-letter concepts: God, Love, Death, Time, Memory. Any of these “other things” can undergo some transubstantiation and become poetry.
    Stephanie Pushaw, Los Angeles Review of Books

    [Ruefle’s] work thrills not just for the pleasure and surprise of [her] language, but for how [she] allows us in on something otherwise so secret, so private, the very leaps and dances and stumbles of [her] own actual thrumming mind. . . . My Private Property is suffused by an atmosphere of solitude. The book possesses the energy of a woman alone, isolated, tending to the daily tasks of living and moving words around.
    Nina MacLaughlin, Los Angeles Review of Books

    Mary Ruefle's careful, measured sentences sound as if they were written by a thousand-year-old person who is still genuinely curious about the world. . . . [She] combine[s] imagistic techniques from surrealism with narrative techniques to create surprising, high-velocity, and deeply affecting work. This aesthetic has spawned many imitators and variations, but her style is unmistakable.
    Rich Smith, The Stranger

    I might say us dreamers have gotten ahold of the essay form. I might speak about how Mary Ruefle’s prose explores the varied experience of singular feeling, feelings within feeling, braiding feelings, feeling slipping into other feelings, feelings inflecting feeling, feeling chasing feeling. . . . I might talk about how Mary Ruefle’s prose makes you laugh aloud, and, in the same beat, breaks your heart.
    Jay Ponteri, Essay Daily

    How does she create a tone at once distanced and intimate? Straightforward and offbeat? Mary Ruefle’s mind is on display here in all its quirky richness. If you don’t know her erasure books, her essays, or her earlier books of more conventionally lineated poetry, starting with My Private Property will give you the essential flavor of her work.
    Meryl Natchez, Zyzzyva

    This collection demonstrates Ruefle’s superb ability to manipulate and handle her chosen subject matter with the greatest of ease. These are words of flesh and cloud coming to life as a surrealist’s song. Ruefle has tamed the lion of language.
    Sonja James, The Journal

    In this volume, she continues to do what she does best: take a microscopic look at the human condition and try to make some sense of it. . . . Ruefle is perceptive and reflective, silly and laugh-out-loud funny. She is like a saint of language and her collections are like prayer books. I remember her pieces better than any of the sumo-sized novels I’ve read in the past year, and, like prayer books, I return to them again and again for nourishment.
    Rachel Hurn, Music & Literature

    Ruefle shows a poetic intelligence . . . in which emotion is rendered through objects and scenes . . . There is a strange air inside them. If I were to rip the pages out from this book and place them on the floor . . . the color pieces would become the Bermuda Triangle of the collection. Some readers might not know what to make of these poems . . . while others who take their time sailing through this electric fog of words will appreciate them.
    Sean Shearer, Meridian

    [T]his book . . . defies the reduction that book reviews require of their typist-failers—you have to read the whole thing to register an impression of the whole thing.
    Kyle Minor, Fanzine


  • Mary Ruefle is the author of many books, including, most recently, The Book (September 2023), along with Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), which was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, longlisted for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, as well as a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. She is also the author of My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also published a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed! (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007), and is an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, where she serves as the state’s poet laureate. Her forthcoming book of prose, The Book , will be published in 2023.

Publication Date: Paperback: September 5, 2017 | Hardcover: October 4, 2016

ISBN# 9781940696515 (5.25x7.75 128pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781940696386 (5.25x7.75 128pp, trade hardcover)
ISBN# 9781950268252 (e-book*)

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