Christopher Potter

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The Thing Is . . .


A novel, a confession, a poem, an autofiction, a commonplace book, a prose poem.


By turns serious and playful, profound and trivial, sad and joyful, The Thing Is is a shape-shifting narrative: one that starts out as written by an alien, seeing the earth and its inhabitants from the outside. This perspective then becomes that of an everychild, who vaguely remembers having once been an alien, and evolves into the biography of everybody who has ever lived.


The narrative moves deftly from an ingenious theory about the origins of the universe and the emergence of life, to a riff on the poetic power of doorways (and other thresholds); or from stories about things hidden from view or buried by time, to what it feels like to be alive at this particular moment in history.


Beautifully wrought, often funny and poignant, The Thing Is is designed to be read in a variety of ways: in gobbets, all in one go, slowly, quickly, repeatedly. This slow/fast read is the perfect novel for our fast/slow times. Whatever The Thing Is to you, it will provide a new twist on the continuing adaptability of the form that we call the novel.

About Christopher Potter

Christopher Potter is the author of four books: The Thing Is, The Earth Gazers: On seeing ourselves, How to Make a Human Being: A body of evidence and You Are Here: A portable history of the universe.


He is the editorial director at Europa Editions UK and the former publisher and managing director of Fourth Estate, now an imprint of Harper Collins.

‘The Thing Is is that great rarity: a book so original that it resembles, not even slightly, any other book I’ve ever read. A book of such breadth and depth, such mystery, such lacerating beauty that I found myself putting it down occasionally because with every page I was that much closer to the end. It’s a remarkable accomplishment’ 


— Michael Cunningham, author of

The Hours

‘Artful and illuminating, this meditative novel is a hugely enjoyable take on the risky business of being human’ 


— Salley Vickers, author of

Miss Garnet’s Angel

‘A post-modern cabinet of wonders, an enigmatic, compulsive wander around the author’s remarkable head, in words wondrously streamed out of his conscious: poetic, chaotic, crazy, sublime . . . An often hilarious game of word association, there’s a little of Woolf and Joyce and Thomas Browne going on here – but a lot of whimsical fun too. The Thing Is is like being at the most fantastical cocktail party, and saying, or hearing, the most wonderful things’


— Philip Hoare, author of RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR

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