Jeanne-Marie Jackson is assistant professor of world Anglophone literature at Johns Hopkins. Her first book is South African Literature’s Russian Soul: Narrative Forms of Global Isolation (Bloomsbury, 2015), and she is now at work on a project called The African Novel of Ideas: Intellection in the Age of Global Writing for Princeton University Press.
For this two-part installment of Process, I asked eight scholars who had just finished a book—their first or their fourth—to write informally about their experience. Conferences often feature roundtables about writing and publishing, but I thought it might be a good addition to have some personal anecdotes, stories less attached to the mechanics of the industry and more to the quiddities of the book-writing process. A book might arrive as an artifact, but it begins as a dream or a compulsion or a hunch. No review or reading, however generous, does justice to the messiness of the life that seals itself into the final object of the book, as though in anticipation of the spell that may someday release it. The intent here is not so much to demystify as to re-enchant.