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.
Misinterest: Essays, Pensées, and Dreams, is a compendium of expository essays, terse pensées, and dream-transcripts in which I meditate on the destruction of interest as a psychological, social, and political impulse. Because interest entails the possibility of novelty and change in relationships between interest’s subjects and objects, preserving misinterest may be, or may seem to be, a survival-need, a matter of life and death.
As the writings in volume explore — sometimes suggestively, sometimes via illustrative (re)enactment — interest is despoiled not only by boredom, but by fascination, not just by repetition, but by mysterianism, not merely by lack, but by missingness, not solely by indifference, but by envy and greed, love and hate.
Why we degrade our interest, objects of interest, and others’ capacities for interest is a question with no simple answer. Yet Misinterest strives and struggles — while reflecting upon its own struggles and strivings — to articulate the difficult manner of being of which interest is emblematic, a manner of being we cannot bear for long, one of which we dream but dare not live, one we suspect but dare not see.
Praise for Misinterest
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, Ph.D., NYU, 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, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist