For some time now, Brian Dillon has been my favorite cultural critic. Due to his sensibility and my interest in most of his subject matters. The first title I read by him is I’m Sitting in a Room, a book he wrote in 24 hours. As a writer, how can one resist such a premise for a book? Dillon stayed in one room at his desk and didn’t leave until he finished the book. When reading the book in 2012, I wasn’t aware that it might have been influenced by a series of pieces I wrote in 2014, where every day I promised myself to post new writing for precisely a year. And I did so, which I think turned out alright, but I also confronted some deeper impulsiveness concerning systems of writing and producing something (I hope) worthwhile. History will tell on that, but clearly, I have a thing for Dillon’s work.
His new collection of critical and memoir-like essays, Affinities (2023), is a pleasurable journey into the author’s head regarding various photographers such as William Eggleston, Diane Arbus, Margret Cameron, Louis Daguerre, and artists Andy Warhol, Francesca Woodman, and many others. All the subject matters of his essays convey qualities or interests that make logical sense in what they do in their practice or art.
A great essayist’s magic is the ability to make the reader feel that they are in the room with the writer. Therefore, it is not due to the piece's subject matter but how the writer takes the reader along on this journey. And on top of that, if you want to continue on the trip by investigating the artists in this book, that is an extra plus in the relationship. Dillon is an excellent guide as he approaches his subject matters in ways that make their art or personalities open up on another level. There are side subjects here, such as exploitation and racism, but also the undercurrents of even stuff that we know or think we know, such as the DADA movement.
Within these essays are a series of mini-works on the subject matter of Affinities, and it’s an excellent technique in bonding all the ingredients here as a whole. The book is a keeper.
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Thanks Tosh. An unknown author for me . Always a pleasure.