The Gift

Barbara Browning

In the midst of the Occupy movement, Barbara Andersen begins spamming people indiscriminately with ukulele covers of sentimental songs.  A series of inappropriate intimacies ensues, including an erotically charged correspondence and then collaboration with an extraordinarily gifted and troubled musician living in Germany.  The Gift is a sometimes funny, sometimes catastrophically sad story of performance art, music, dance, and our attempts and failures to make contact.

“…a smart, funny, heartbreaking and often sexy delight of a novel that presses hard against the boundaries of where literary and artistic performances begin and end.” — The New York Times

“Browning is working at the edges of her craft, and it’s utterly thrilling to watch.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Barbara Browning’s winning and expansive novel describes one woman’s intimacies wiht lovers, strangers, culture and ideas, family and friends during serveral months in NY between 2012 and 2013.  Browning brilliantly synthesizes her work as a scholar and artist into a single identity, becoming at once a master monologist, Storyteller, and historian of her amorphous tribe.” —Chris Kraus

“Barbara Browning’s gift is delicacy’s embrace of edge, daring’s embrace of openness, dance’s embrace of song, in open tuning: a blues for intimacy’s constant rupture and repair, held out in simple and miraculous gesture.  I mean to say that her sentences are carefully held out hands signing the theory and practice of generosity, speaking with such plain obscurity that what has been covered — the lonesome miracle of what it is to be together — is now visible.” —Fred Moten

“…an exceptionally graceful page presence: loony and profound, vulnerable and ingenuous, Barbara acts to unify the book’s central concerns, giving its intellectual flights of fancy a palpable human pulse.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


About the Author

Barbara Browning


Barbara Browning has a PhD from Yale in comparative literature. She teaches in the Department of Performance Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts, NYU.

I took the package to the post office at Eleventh Street and Fourth Avenue. There was a long line because of the upcoming holidays. As I was standing in line, I saw a sign explaining what kinds of things you couldn’t send via airmail: obviously really hazardous materials like lighter fluid and firearms but also alcohol, perfume, prescription drugs, and tobacco. Hmm, perfume. But my flask was so tiny, and it was all wrapped up in the iPod cozy, plus the package was sturdy and all taped up. I couldn’t imagine the tiny vial would break open, and if it did, there were just a few drops in there—they’d surely evaporate right away. When I got up to the window, the clerk looked humorless. She weighed my parcel and looked me dead in the eye: “Any perfume in there?” I looked her dead in the eye and said no. She put the necessary postage on the package and tossed it into a bin.

Barbara Browning, The Gift