That Which Remains: A Collaboration in Reading

Exploring collaboration as form and process. Writing as engagement, performance, social event, proximity, experiment.

by Andrew Wessels


To read, from the Old English rǣdan: to counsel, advise, interpret. To read as an act of responding in a particular way—thoughtful, purposeful, informative. To counsel, to advise. The goal: to ensure success. The result: reading as an interactive act. Thus an act of creation; thus something left over afterward, something remaining.

And what is it that is left over, left behind? Here, I asked two authors, Jessica Bozek and Allison Carter, to read each other’s book—The Tales and A Fixed, Formal Arrangement, respectively. To read in the above sense, to counsel, to advise. And in this process, to determine what remains. In this collaborative reading, the author-readers decided to produce two indices to chronicle their excursions into each other’s book, to see how the book counsels them, to give counsel to us, other readers. A resultant twining of two artistic practices through an examination of what is left in the aftermath of reading.

Image, Mary Kelly, Post-Partum Document.

| Allison Carter’s Statement | Jessica Bozek’s Statement | Dream Index of The Tales | Indexing A Fixed, Formal Arrangement |


Allison Carter’s Statement of Reading The Tales

I chose to index The Tales by Jessica Bozek according to its dreams. I wanted to imagine how to hear the murmurs of the dead, the drawn-into-sleep. What the dead aren’t saying? Their objects. Each object has an after-life, and it is impossible not to take ownership of it, as if each were in my own dream. I colonized, I defended myself against the swallowing ground by interpreting The Tales by dream.

I used my own observations, as well as proposals from online dream interpretation websites, to notate each entry in this preliminary index.


Jessica Bozek’s Statement of Reading A Fixed, Formal Arrangement

I considered two possible approaches for generating index terms by which to read Allison Carter’s A Fixed, Formal Arrangement. First, I looked at the “Most Searched” words/phrases on During most of October, “government shutdown” ranked first in the day, week, and month lists. That made sense, though “cancer” surprised me, as did “modern love” and “baby hope.” I quickly realized that visitors to the site weren’t looking to learn about modern love generally or for hope in stories about babies, but rather for the Modern Love column and stories about the young girl found dead in an Igloo cooler, 22 years ago, along an Upper Manhattan parkway. I thought of ignoring the idiosyncrasies of the lowercase display and looking for evidence of attention to “modern love” and “baby hope” in Allison’s book. I also noted the topics that were on my mind. This month marks the first anniversary of my mother’s death, from “cancer”; my pregnancy coincided with her diagnosis and treatment. She died shortly after I became a “mother” myself. In the end, I decided on three index terms—“government shutdown,” “cancer,” and “mother”—that merged public and personal concerns. The resulting index is a record of how such concerns, based as they are in time and circumstance, can influence—and even circumscribe—one’s reading of a text.




alarm … 28, 39. In which one has fears of harm to the body, nudity before strangers, an unfamiliar den with no door.

animal(s) … 11, 13, 21, 23, 26, 29, 37. In which we undermine our loneliness,“if the animal is consenting. [i]” in which we don’t even take time to regret not having followed the animal up and out.


beaver … 20. In which we crawl back into my body and then come out the other side, teething. 

believe … 20, 24, 67. See, ghost.

birds … 16, 24, 40, 47, 51, 63, 64, 69 notes. In which we leave a window open for the birds, and try, in our own way, to be useful to them. The Archangel of Death. Luck in your business. Havoc in your marriage.

pet birds

understory birds

bones … 21, 48, 54. In which we allow the facts to obscure the meaning. Also, the underground tunnels. When there are bones, there is a source of confidence. And who do we rely on, when we’re dead? Sometimes, the knees give out. Or the bone shows through. An ambivalent image, when you take someone’s bones. 


cold … 13, 20, 26.  In which there is a relationship breakdown of which you will be the cause [ii]. Maybe I can speak to you. But you, in speaking to me, seem to have undone me. 

communication … 14. see mouth, see weapons

cotton … 11, 65. see sweaters


dog … 9, 11, 16, 17, 18, 24, 47, 62. In which we let the shadow hold coronary heat, for us. It is impossible to hold this without a helper. The well-trained dog. Some believe the dog is an atheist.


eyelids … 9, 23. In which having little skin, blearing, developing sores. Also, one’s protections and defenses. No context for, “collapsing.”

eyelids, closing


fall … 11, 15, 64. n.b. this is also confounded.


ghost … 24, 65. In which we might uncover something that we’ve pushed aside. Or, in which a friendly person will offer us money. Or, they pushed my heart underground and it evaporated back up, and now it is cloudy like a ghost. See, lie.

ground… 11, 15, 20, 22, 26, 48, 69, notes. see underground. In which, some say, you will soon start a small trip. We have to wonder here, given the depth, whether we can go too far into balance and ease. We become sleepy while already inside.


house(s) … 9, 26, 37, 49, 51, 54, notes. What believes or do I fear concerning myself? [iii]” Also, in which the house can be interpreted as a hole, or by single rooms, levels, or by apertures (windows, doors, holes in the house,)

harmonious houses

outside of


house finch in which the bird is already among the house (death)


insects … 9, 38. In which we have to consider the difference between minor obstacles and the accumulation of minor obstacles. Also, that time extends relatively to size. Insects that come from a cupboard or a drawer, or a cupboard or a drawer that has gone underground – the horror of repressing an entire person, meaning a metaperson. In which we are reminded that horror resides in the eating of the horror by insects, which is also a word.


junk mail … 47. And the owners of these things.


knives … 47. See, weapons.


lieSee, believe.

lips, chapped … 47. In which thirst stays at the aperture, as well as the erotic needs of the citizens, you are a citizen.

love, my … 19, 65. Love in a dream also means distress, worries and sorrow. Love in a dream also represents one’s ability to express something. [iv]” “On the other hand, the dream may be compensatory. [v]”


marionette … 19, 54. See, puppet.

mouth … 23, 26, 54. In which silence bends down to let the curtains flap out.  


nest … 16, 24, 64, 69

new … 16, 17, 18, 47, 49, 53, notes. Always an atrocity. What an insidious word. A harbinger of coma.


Operation … preface, notes. notable mostly for its absence. In which we split open a body and repair or remove something dysfunctional or unrecognizable


puppet (see marionette) … 29. In which we have no indication that the puppet seems to retain any of its personality after death. Mechanics.

puppeteer (see but draw someone else near) … 55.


quick … 68, 69. Down to the.


radar … 28, notes. In which we defy the edges of the body and then fall down. 

running …  In which there is no running. See, slide.

running shoes … 47

running clothes … 65 In which objects remain. See, ghosts.


slide … 21. The life will take an absolutely unexpected idiom. [vi]” 

Survivor … preface, 13, 19, 22, 27, 30, 37, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, notes. In which a horrified thought swells to take up the space of something removed, the subject increases with time

survivor, inexplicable

survivor, lone

sweaters … 47, 65, notes. In which we attempt to love, warmth. Alternatively innocence, and/or naïve thinking.

sweaters with holes in the writing elbow


tongue … 25. In which we speak and bite down at the same time. Some say, a phallus. In which we make our needs known and are bitten down upon at the same time. Also, the way we know.


underground … 9, 14, notes. In which we attribute responsibility. “Almost always a women’s dream and with fear and pursuit scenes linkedly: Here it is about (unaware) fears of unknown pursuers. [vii]”


vitamin … 47. In which the edges of our willpower are fingered and we try to make amends.


water … 20, 21, 26, 47, 50. In which we notice a kind of thirst, here. Only the beaver goes into water, and with it, the beaver brings air.

the surface of the water

water molecules

watering cans

water bowl

weapons … 9. In which the horror proceeds by becoming diffuse and peripheral. Recklessness, strong desires, immature sexuality. Where in my life am I – and to become opener, more receptive? Taking responsibility.




year(s) … 9, 26, 27, 28, 30, notes. In which the center is heaviest with years.


zone … 21. In which we discover time.











Government shutdown

fog (5)
strung by time, congress (6)
a breakdown of the head (7)
the cylindrical voids tapping along (8)
slack off the cabinets (14)
“I think I’m going to have to cancel” (16)
“Maybe we should consult with a third party” (21)
who isn’t even thinking about gasping (29)
Making Time to Talk Things Through (32)
Let’s smash our bones (32)
the alarm (33)
halfway off the cliff (34)
Ten Years from Now (38)
slackened bodies all planned out (38)
A large white mattress in the middle of an empty white garage (59)
There wasn’t oxygen in the garage (62)
Sometimes I mean it (81)
Dimensions for this garage are hard to pin down (88)
another sequence that doesn’t end in darkness (100)
potential collapses (101)


“Promise me there is a chance” (5)
multiplicative (5)
pumping it through muscles (6)
superelectric chewable tissue (8)
the things I can’t see, they don’t go away, they solidify (10)
a wall, constructed of very solid bodies (10)
a sharp brown cloud (11)
the backside of nuclear stuff (13)
over-spreading plot (23)
everything is rushing towards my side of the room (25)
It Is Venom (33)
gutted, gutted (33)
One of the Good Days (34)
“It will feel like parts of you have been left in other rooms” (39)
I Become Terrified about the Future (42)
the rate of recurrence (50)
Sick in the walls (58)
A large white mattress in the middle of an empty white garage (59)
“Has it been years, poison, has it been a week?” (78)
cancer? (84)
I got stuck in the middle of the garage holding an empty burlap sack (85)
my future plans baring threads then fraying to dust (85)
she was gone (86)
she was already gone (86)
She was gone (86)
It turns out there was something dreadfully wrong (90)
It reached a point where I didn’t want to know (90)
He had a lake in his stomach (91)
another sequence that doesn’t end in darkness (100)
walls were lumped with suspicious areas (103)


I can’t see out (5)
I really can’t see out (5)
the bed is wound (6)
Has it passed into flab (14)
buying two pluots (15)
my tiny sentimental coil (16)
I can’t slip out (20)
so you should finish my laundry, steep my tea (22)
Threesome (22)
she had to wait there (28)
just thinking about picnics, laundry, grocery shopping (30)
“I will turn you into an instrument” (31)
“It will feel like parts of you have been left in other rooms” (39)
I Become Terrified about the Future (42)
Or was it that the second I strapped myself in I stopped breathing (62)
Part of me fell in and was gone (64)
Let your children get their clothes dirty. Let your children draw on the furniture (80)
my future plans baring threads then fraying to dust (85)
“Don’t you know how much I love you?” (86)
There was snow behind my eyelids (86)
I can’t come out for dinner (88)
I can’t come out for dinner (88)
relentless push of the blood (100)
This new kind of air (101)

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