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.