W. and I are often drawn to discuss questions of sincerity. 'Why did X write that book? What did it mean for him?' As if one should only write when everything is at stake in the act of writing. As though writing were tauromachy.

'... to lay bear one's heart, to write that book about oneself in which the concern for sincerity would be carried to such lengths that, under the author's sentences, 'the paper would shrivel and flare at each touch of his fiery pen'. That was Michel Leiris. 'To write a book that is an act': but what would this mean for him? His answer may seem disappointing: to effect a kind of catharsis, to be absolved, to confess ...

There is a picture of the author on the back cover of the book. I think to myself: this man is sincere. He is dressed in what I imagine is an English suit; his large eyes, deep set and spaced widely in a bull's head which rests upon broad shoulders suggest depth, fear and intractability. Here is an obstinate man, a stubborn one, but one who searches. A man of what would come to be called experience (I am thinking of the term Foucault uses for Breton, Bataille and Blanchot in an interview he gave on the occasion of Breton's death). I recognise in Leiris a fellow Taurean.

Manhood carries the dedication: 'To Georges Bataille, who is at the origin of this book'. The parallels are clear: both have a fascination with bullfighting completely distinguishable (or is it?) from Hemingway's machismo. Both speak of their sexual impotence, although both frequent brothels and are drawn to sadomasochism; both orbit the Surrealists and both leave at the same point (Leiris will join Bataille's circle); both are men of sincerity.

Reading the first few dozen pages of Manhood, I sigh to myself and wonder whether I should trace all the classical references I find there. Who is Lucrene?, I ask myself, Who is Holofernes? But then: I don't care, and turn the pages rapidly, half watching The Last Days of Disco instead.

Leiris, I think to myself, is like an author of the eighteenth century: his classical prose protects him from that of which he would write. He is a man who wants to be understood; he keeps his paragraphs short; he writes precisely, with an anthropologist's eye. And he writes of preoccupations that are recognisably Bataillean, and I wonder whether he is just one of those men strongly influenced by others (I am thinking of my disappointment reading the pages Antelme and Mascolo wrote on The Writing of the Disaster; they repeat Blanchot's formulations without, it seems, being aware of what it might be to understand them, or at least allow them space to resonate, still thinking it worthy of publishing their meditations ...) Ah, I think to myself: he links death to eroticism, and writes of the little death of orgasm. I admit, I am bored of these themes.

But as the book continues, Leiris shows what he previously only deigns to state: that conjunction of a death-obsession with a blocked desire to give himself to another; thus will he take his homosexual friend in his mouth and allow himself to be taken in turn; thus his nights of dancing and bar-hopping. 'Jazz was a sign of allegiance, an orgiastic tribute to the colours of the moment'; Leiris will describe the religious moment of 'communion by dance' which led him to the dream of a black Eden and to those anthropological adventures which took him to Africa.

I begin to understand: what appears to be a classical prose is one braced against the experiences it allows Leiris to convey. It is made to take a wrong turn; it drinks but remains upright, it staggers as it dances. 'I made her and the madam slap me until my face was black and blue; enjoying themselves, the two women, when they saw me grinning, struck me all the harder, saying: "You ready for some more, you old bugger?"'

Leiris's story speeds up towards the end. And, as it speeds, something assembles itself as the book which recalls me to Breton's Nadja (it's closing pages) and even Maldoror (though that book is too exhausting): yes, the book as though spreads itself above me in the sky. The marvel: the confession upon which it would bear is not personal. As Leiris describes the process which leads him to regard writing more highly than any other activity, his prose achieves that great indication which allows it to achieve a kind of life. No longer is a story reported to me; no longer am I referred to what would have occurred outside the text: the text itself speaks, and speaks in every part of itself. The whole text speaks.

I think to myself: anyone could write a text like this. Anyone, that is, who had a friend like Masson to encourage him. And then I think: anyone writes and by writing achieves what the Chinese calligrapher can achieve by one stroke: a life and writing united in a single stroke.

Should one write personal blogs or not? Begin by writing something personal, and something else might occur. Best of all when this 'something else' delivers itself by way of the personal and returns there, when it is contextualised so that the leap (or the failure to leap: impotence) reveals itself. Impotence: yes, that is the word as it would refer, now, to the impossibility of letting the book drop away from what it would designate. Manhood does not refer, it is; it is not the windowpane through which one can see the events of which it would report, it is those events itself.

Is 'impotency' a word? It should be; let it be the word which remembers the failure to leap and transcend itself that allows a book like Manhood (but how many books are like Manhood?) to as it were collapse into itself and carry its reader with it. Impotency: a sign to the blogger to write while failing to write, to let what is personal collapse even in the midst of the personal, and to confess only the impossibility of grasping an experience that does not so much vouchsafe itself in writing, offering itself to any and all, as keep itself in words and sentences, locked there. Until writing serves neither to hide or illuminate any personal secret, attaining a density which is born of the continual collapse into itself.

Attain that speed which allows writing to become itself. Follow writing as by the same stroke it offers itself to be read and flees that reading, as it passes through what is written as between the shores of meaning and non-meaning.