See What I See
Essays by Greg Gerke
What does it mean today to experience a work of art? In a culture of cynicism, at the mercy of a zeitgeist that prizes the trivial and ephemeral, where can we turn in search of the genuine, the sincere, the truly accomplished? And even if we were to find these things, would we know how to acknowledge their value?
The essays in See What I See are the fruits of a lifetime spent grappling with these questions. By turns lyrical and arch, nostalgic and impassioned, gnomic and piercingly insightful, they seek answers in the artistic achievements of the great masters as well as in less likely places. For Greg Gerke, the nectar of aesthetic experience is found as often in the human body as in poetry or prose, as much in a movement through the world as on celluloid and canvas. Rapturous and indignant, ecstatic and regretful, his essays register the nuances of living in a world abundant with art, and apprise us, page by page, of the sheer breadth of “the distinguished enterprise of being.”
Greg Gerke is an essayist and writer of short fiction, based in New York. His work has appeared in 3 AM Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. His collection of stories, Especially the Bad Things, is also available from Splice.
Listen to Greg Gerke in conversation with Gabriel Blackwell on the Full Stop podcast.
Listen to Greg Gerke discussing See What I See on the otherppl podcast with Brad Listi.
Listen to Greg Gerke discussing See What I See on the Feeling Bookish podcast.
Listen to Greg Gerke discussing See What I See on the Skylit podcast, in conversation with Jim Gauer.
Read On or About, excerpted at 3:AM Magazine.
Read Why Write?, excerpted at The Millions.
Read an exclusive new essay on collections of essays at Essay Daily.
Read a Q&A with Greg Gerke at Fifteen Questions.
Praise for See What I See
Greg Gerke is more bookish than [D.H.] Lawrence. … He strives to transform each of his sentences into a little work of art or, failing that, of gorgeous artifice. … Through his study of [other] distinctive stylists, Gerke has made himself into what he calls a “page-hugger”… always caressing the details.Michael Dirda
The Washington Post
See What I See is the very brew needed in these parched times. Greg Gerke’s generous, thoughtful reflections on the beguiling experience of art are full of uplift and reverence for the illuming efforts of writers and filmmakers: Louise Glück, William H. Gass, and William Gaddis, Stanley Kubrick and Paul Thomas Anderson, to name but a few. And he does not stint intimate experience, the riches of the examined life, and the possibility of “engaging with the work and then each other.” Take up this wonderful book and “drink and be whole again beyond confusion.”Christine Schutt
author of Florida and Pure Hollywood
Greg Gerke’s taste is excellent. His knowledge of the creative masters he lovingly observes and reflects on is broad and deep. His judgment is well-grounded and precise. The best thing, though, about his brilliant, quirky book of essays See What I See is understanding what living with great art is like for someone who can’t live without it.Vijay Seshadri
poet, essayist, and Pulitzer Prize winner
Greg Gerke is an essayist after my own heart. He’s smart, he’s sensitive, and he’s strange. He knows literature and film, and enough about his own catastrophic psyche to make him a reliable witness and commentator.Phillip Lopate
author of The Art of the Personal Essay
This beguiling collection of belletristic essays puts into practice William H. Gass’ belief that “works of art are meant to be lived with and loved.” In prose as beautiful and imagistic as Gass’, Gerke recounts how he has lived with and loved certain authors — Gass, Gaddis, Stevens, Stein, Naipaul, and others — and with some auteur directors. See What I See paints a portrait of a “man of letters” in the old sense of the term, someone for whom literature is a way of life, not an academic profession, and I can’t recommend this highly enough.Steven Moore
author of The Novel: An Alternative Biography and My Back Pages
Greg Gerke’s See What I See is “enlivened by ruin.” James, Rilke, and Stevens. Gass and Gaddis. Eric Rohmer. These are the shards that he shores against this ruin. Gerke is one of the faithful remnant, loyal to the riches, pleasures, and freedoms of art. See What I See is the fittest subversion of the moralizing present: it revels in its own shrewd gorgeousity.Curtis White
author of The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves
[Gerke writes in] a mode of criticism that eschews didacticism and pedantry, a mode that endears the reader through lyric turns of phrase, candor, and vulnerability. … [It] also prescribes patience — a necessary palliative, in this era marked by eyes bloodshot from staring at our screens and impotent anger at the fresh iniquities surfacing daily in the 24-hour news cycle.Patrick Thomas Henry
Michigan Quarterly Review
Incredibly insightful criticism… terrific.Chris Via
Leaf by Leaf
Wise and perceptive.Hugh Fulham-McQuillan
author of Notes on Jackson and His Dead
Excellent. … When a writer’s personality comes through on the page, and I actually want to know the writer on a more personal level, I am thrilled and even more engaged in my reading.M. Sarki
Rogue Literary Society