cover image How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency

Akiko Busch. Penguin, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-101-98041-5

Essayist Busch (The Incidental Steward) meditates on how the human need for privacy and anonymity has reasserted itself with new urgency amid the exhibitionism of the technology-imbued modern world. With many seeking an “alternative to a life of perpetual display,” she offers a “field guide to invisibility,” with examples from science, literature, and visual art. The book draws from J.K. Rowling and Hans Christian Andersen to explore how children yearn for the ethereal, and shows how “erasure books,” like those of poet Mary Ruefle, create something new by obscuring the old. Astutely noting the significance of contemporary language like “ghosting” and “unseeing” things, Busch suggests absence can become a presence in its own right. Elsewhere, she visits Duke University’s engineering department to experiment with a real-life “cloaking device” and goes scuba diving to “become a refugee of the visible world.” Busch’s exploration of her subject is free-associative, wide-ranging, and poetic in its own right. Her description of visiting New York City’s Grand Central Terminal is particularly striking, as she is “swept along by the stream of humanity” amid the seemingly choreographed “gorgeous multitude.” Busch offers a path to quiet dignity that is rich and enlightening. Agent: Albert LaFarge, Albert LaFarge Literary Agency. (Feb.)