Earth, Milky Way: punctum books, 2019. 166 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-1-950192-29-8. DOI: 10.21983/P3.0256.1.00. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $21.00 in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

M.H. Bowker’s rich, refreshing, and sometimes startlingly personal work is an intellectual-spiritual foray into the void at the center of our missing experience of being actually interested in our lives. It reminds us how often we seek and accept false substitutes for deep thinking and for truly coming alive. But it also guides us in coping with tedious academic pretense, with groupthink, with the artifices we layer over conflictual desires. Through his elegant, graceful, amusing, genuine, and welcoming writing, Bowker opens us to encounters with surprise, novelty, and provocation without cynicism. His singularity of voice and rarity of perception are reminiscent of the simultaneously trance-inducing and startling first-time effects of Winnicott, Bion, and Phillips. You will emerge from Misinterest awakened and with renewed focus and intentionality, as if from the best kind of guided meditation.

~ Jill Gentile, author of Feminine Law: Freud, Free Speech, and the Voice of Desire

Psychoanalysis is a psychology of absences, a mode of thinking about the significance of what’s missing. M.H. Bowker makes use of this psychoanalytic heuristic in his wonderfully provocative Misinterest. The book combines poetic, expository, and aphoristic forms, inviting readers into his stream-of-consciousness meditation on modern states of ennui. The essay “Is Sex Interesting?” is alone worth the read.

~ Janice Haaken, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Portland State University

Misinterest is a meditation on how we choose (Do we choose?) to pay attention; that is, to engage, or not to. Written with a Zen-like quality, I sometimes found myself wondering just what kind of volume was I reading — perhaps another mode of misinterest. Dr. Bowker’s volume reads as part poem, part koan, part psychoanalytic free association. An indeterminate journey half-way between a documentary and a dream-book, I found Misinterest impossible to ignore.

~ Dan Livney, Clinical Psychologist

Misinterest: Essays, Pensées, and Dreams

The term “interest” lacks a precise antonym. In English, we have “disinterested” and “uninteresting,” but we want for a term that denotes robust opposition to interest. The same appears to hold true in every other language (as far as we know). Interest’s missing antonym reflects not merely a widespread lexical oversight, but a misrecognition of interest’s complete and exact meaning. More importantly, the idea that interest has no opposite expresses a certain refusal to acknowledge the power of the impulse to extinguish interest, for the self and for others.

Why then do we foreclose interest’s possibility, degrade our (and others’) capacities to experience interest, and destroy interest’s objects? Why do we decline what interest proffers — which includes creative and subjective being, thinking, and relating — in favor of more primitive modes of survival, thoughtlessness, and nonbeing? Why do relationships — with ourselves, with others, with objects — toward which genuine interest draws us seem sometimes, if not often, unbearable?

These questions are difficult. Their answers, even more so. Misinterest: Essays, Pensées, and Dreams attempts to approach them in an honest way, without making them fascinating, mysterious, boring, obscurantist, or fascinatingly mysteriously boringly obscurantist. Outwardly, Misinterest is concerned with dreams and forgetting and Eros and soaring dogs and groups and suicidal suburban teenagers and sex and jury duty and Nazis and fathers and hatred and holy parrots and fundamentalists and plagues and other things that may or may not be interesting. Ultimately, however, it seeks, like Jules Renard, “en restant exact” (in remaining true/real), to shed light on the establishment of misinterest, missingness, and mystery where and when they need not be, and, thus, on the psychic, familial, and political forces that compel us not to be when and where we ought.

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