The Art of Intimacy: The Space Between

Overview

The first work of nonfiction by Stacey D’Erasmo, author of the New York Times Notable Books Tea and The Sky Below

“What is the nature of intimacy, of what happens in the space between us? And how do we, as writers, catch or reflect it on the page?” Stacey D’Erasmo’s insightful and illuminating study examines the craft and the contradictions of creating relationships not only between two lovers but also between friends, family members, acquaintances, and enemies in fiction. She argues for a more honest, more ...

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Overview

The first work of nonfiction by Stacey D’Erasmo, author of the New York Times Notable Books Tea and The Sky Below

“What is the nature of intimacy, of what happens in the space between us? And how do we, as writers, catch or reflect it on the page?” Stacey D’Erasmo’s insightful and illuminating study examines the craft and the contradictions of creating relationships not only between two lovers but also between friends, family members, acquaintances, and enemies in fiction. She argues for a more honest, more complex portrait of the true nature of the connections and missed connections among characters and, fascinatingly, between the writer and the reader. D’Erasmo takes us deep into the structure and grammar of these intimacies as they have been portrayed by such writers as Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and William Maxwell, and also by visual artists and filmmakers. She asks whether writing about intimacy is like staring straight into the sun, but it is her own brilliance that dazzles in the piercing and original book, The Art of Intimacy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Part of Graywolf’s “Art of” series on the craft of writing, edited by Charles Baxter, this first work of nonfiction by novelist D’Erasmo (The Sky Below) examines the concept of intimacy and the ways this mysterious phenomenon has been conveyed by writers, visual artists, and filmmakers. D’Erasmo organizes the book into chapters based on the places where intimacy occurs, though these settings are themselves abstract: “Meeting in the Image”; “Meeting in the If”; “Meeting in the Dark.” The word intimacy evokes images of love, but the book also delves into the darker side of the subject: obsession. The relationship between a torturer and his victim, D’Erasmo argues, is fundamentally similar to the relationship between a man and woman having deeply emotional sex. The book’s highlight is the meta-textual section “Meeting in the White Space,” in which even the reader’s own intimacy with the author is held up for inspection. This can mean either the author divulging moments of vulnerability, as D’Erasmo does mere pages earlier, or works of fiction in which the reader’s interpretation of a character’s actions makes him or her complicit in the events that unfold. D’Erasmo provides a lucid and provocative examination of the ill-defined concept of intimacy. Agent: Bill Clegg, William Morris. (July)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Art of Intimacy:

"D'Erasmo manages to teach, model, and argue many essential truths about intimacy within the slim volume, making The Art of Intimacy a perfect go-to resource for any writer, teacher, or thoughtful reader who wants line-level references to apt 20th- and 21st- century literature that represent intimacy in its kaleidoscopic diversity." —Los Angeles Review of Books

"D'Erasmo digs deep into the nuances of literature in order to find the hidden glue that links lovers, family, friends and enemies to each other and to the reader. . . . Readers and writers will gain a deeper appreciation for the lyric need for that which is left unsaid, like the pause in a piece of music which defines the notes around it." —Shelf Awareness

"A profound meditation on the relationships between fictional characters, the possibility and meaning of intimacy in fiction, and most vitally, an exploration by a master writer of how authors create relationships between readers and their stories. . . . An invaluable text for the writing classroom. . . . Buy this indispensable book." —The Rumpus

"Provides powerful insight . . . as D'Erasmo proved throughout, intimacy is often the result of what isn't said, of what needn't be said, of a closeness the readers feel but don't see." —Los Angeles Review

"The word intimacy evokes images of love, but the book also delves into the darker side of the subject: obsession. . . . D'Erasmo provides a lucid and provocative examination of the ill-defined concept of intimacy." —Publishers Weekly

Library Journal
Creating authentic relationships among friends, lovers, and family members is hard enough in real life, so imagine how hard it is in fiction. I expect D'Erasmo, the author of exquisite books like A Seahorse Year and a 2012 National Book Award judge, to deliver a clear and intriguing discussion of the topic for writers and nonwriters alike.
Kirkus Reviews
The latest in the publisher's The Art Of... series, compact books exploring the writer's craft, this one addresses the variety, power and challenges of intimacy. Highly regarded novelist D'Erasmo (Creative Writing/Columbia Univ.; The Sky Below, 2009, etc.) focuses mainly, though not exclusively, on literary fiction. "Like looking directly at the sun, looking directly at the creation of intimacy in fiction seems like a dangerous business," she writes. It certainly can be risky in the work of D.H. Lawrence, for example, yet D'Erasmo notes that for Lawrence, "intimacy--usually, though not always, sexual intimacy between men and women--is actually not so much a way in as a way out of the prison house of self, of place, of circumstance and into a larger, even a much larger, consciousness." She is every bit as interested in nonsexual intimacy: as expressed in the "tentative, subjunctive, speculative" narratives of William Maxwell or in the "complicity" between writer and reader in novels by Italo Calvino and Percival Everett. Those are among the better-known names mentioned here (along with Virginia Woolf and Joan Didion); most readers will not be familiar with a good deal of the fiction D'Erasmo so intimately dissects. Broad-based appeal is not her primary goal; indeed, she is dismissive of "the ubiquitousness, the cheapness even, of intimacy as a modern ideal....A particularly modern, faux-sincere, kitsch intimacy sells everything from afternoon talk shows to pictures on Instagram to Facebook's endlessly mined personal information, so glittering to retailers." This instant intimacy scants the complexities investigated in serious fiction, where "[i]ntimacy...can be rendered as a space between that is as close as a breath or as great as a century." Suggestive rather than definitive, which is only to be expected with such an expansive topic.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555976477
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 7/9/2013
  • Series: Art of... Series
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 452,631
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 6.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Stacey D’Erasmo is the author of The Sky Below, a New York Times Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Favorite Book of the Year; A Seahorse Year; and Tea, a New York Times Notable Book. She teaches at Columbia University.

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