Additional Book Information
Series: New York Review Books
Publication Date: April 25, 2023
AffinitiesOn Art and Fascination
by Brian Dillon
In Affinities, Brian Dillon, who Joyce Carol Oates has said writes “fascinating prose . . . on virtually any subject,” explores images and artists he is drawn to and analyzes the attraction. What does it mean to claim affinity with a picture? What do feelings of affinity imply about the experience of art and of the world? Affinities is a critical and personal study of a sensation that is not exactly taste, desire, or solidarity, but has aspects of all three. Approaching this subject via discrete examples, Dillon examines works by artists such as Dora Maar and Andy Warhol, Rinko Kawauchi and Susan Hiller, as well as scientific or vernacular images of sea creatures and migraine auras. Written as a series of linked essays, Affinities completes a trilogy, with Essayism and Suppose a Sentence, about the intimate and abstract pleasures of reading and looking.
As expected, this book is a delightfully meandering collection. . . . Nearly everything cited is a film still or photograph, many of which evince some sort of visual imprecision or flux. Through a series of short essays, Dillon looks closely at the things he loves, creating a pinboard of one man’s visual enchantments.
—Grace Linden, BOMB
The images collected together in this book become, in Dillon’s hands, an affinity. And, by looking at them with him, he makes an affinity of us, too.
—Anil Gomes, The Guardian
One of the most anticipated books of 2023.
Affinities is a book of enthrallments. Brian Dillon ‘performs' and ‘embodies' that tautology of fascination, its unspeakability. On titans like Julia Margaret Cameron, Claude Cahun, Francesca Woodman and Tacita Dean, Dillon is revelatory. Conceived during the pandemic, Affinities shares the eccentric pain of the moment, the intimate revelations of self-doubt imposed on us all. Affinities is a book after my heart.
—Moyra Davey, author of Index Cards
Brian Dillon’s Affinities eloquently describes the relationships we have – both physical and mental – with works of art. Dillon reflects on the nature of these relationships, the affinities for the selected works, through his research and personal history with them while intermittently allowing us insight into his mediations about the complexity of affinity itself.
—Hans Ulrich Obrist, author of Ways of Curating
The most moving essays in this superb collection are the autobiographical investigations, but every piece, even the most ostensibly impersonal, arrives imbued with Brian Dillon’s signature tactic of bliss-seeking focus on visual details, on impalpable atmospheres, on connections drawn as if in a state of clairvoyant summation. He spins language’s roulette wheel with a finesse and seriousness that recalls the severe yet secretly florid tones of Sontag, Sebald, Benjamin, and other principled foragers in the realm of the buried, the overlooked, the ecstatic. I feel safer in the world, knowing that a diviner as keen-eyed as Brian Dillon is operating the control panel of the sentence.
—Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Figure it Out
In Affinities, Brian Dillon has woven a sparking electric web of aesthetic attention, an astonishingly deft and slantwise autobiography through the images of others. With this third panel in his brilliant triptych—with Essayism and Suppose a Sentence—Dillon has made himself a quiet apostle of close looking, drawing such intimate connections between such disparate things that he reveals marvel after marvel, and miraculously passes his affinities along to the reader. His project, it seems to me, is a nearly holy one, born of deep generosity and love for the world.
Brian Dillon is always invigoratingly brilliant. His sentences, his stylistic innovations, the range and potency of his intellectual adventures; he is a true master of the literary arts and a writer I would never hesitate to read, whatever his subject.
Loaded on every page with extensive and extravagant subtleties, these Affinities dazzle even those who, like myself, have been entrapped, exhausted, and endlessly admirative of Brian Dillon before and long before.
—Mary Ann Caws