A Third Book Underway

I have begun writing my third book. The first draft of the introduction is done, and I have most of the rest in my head, although it may change as I go along. As usual, I won’t talk about it until the manuscript is complete (in about a year, if all goes well). This time, I am going to do everything possible to find an agent, one who will help me find a trade publisher (that is, one that publishes for a general readership). Generally, trade publishers work only through agents.

I will have to demonstrate that the book is indeed for a general audience. In the past, my books have been dismissed by agents as “scholarly” (yes, that term can be used as an insult). It’s a way of saying, “oh, that may be of interest to intellectuals, but not to the average person on the street, or even the average college-educated person on the street, or even the average college-educated person in a café.” “Intellectual” is another insult in these contexts; it means “out of touch, abtruse, up in the clouds, unfeeling, unsensual, out of date.” But even while dismissing “scholarly” and “intellectual” writings, trade publishers eagerly release and promote books that claim to explain what “research has shown” about the mind, human nature, etc. Mine isn’t that kind of book either. It has more to do with uncertainties than certainties.

I will have to show what the book is and why it isn’t for a niche audience. There is nothing wrong with writing for niche audiences—and the book certainly won’t be for everyone—but its whole point is to bring people into something unfamiliar (but recognizable in the end).

Like the previous two books, this book does not fall easily into a category. But unlike the previous two, it will explain and show why not, so that the reader will not end up baffled. Not everyone was baffled by the first two books, but for some, the sheer lack of a clear genre was an obstacle. They couldn’t understand, for instance, why Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture had so many digressions into literature. To me this was obvious: literature comes out of solitude and often gives solitude a form. Likewise, when you think about a work of literature, your thoughts come from solitude (even in a class discussion). So, even obliquely, you learn something about solitude through literature: not lessons, not takeaways, but resonances, shapes. I didn’t take the reader carefully enough through these steps, or explain why a plunge was important. I don’t want to overexplain, much less pander, but given that people usually want to know what to expect from a book (especially a book of nonfiction), I have to make a stronger case for not knowing what to expect.

So, as the expression goes, the book will “get meta” at times, and that will be part of its fun, for me at least. Let’s see how this turns out.

Art credit: Paul Klee, Open Book (1930) (The Guggenheim Museum).

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  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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