Art of Intimacy

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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.


It’s a trim five-by-seven book, just the right size to slip into a coat pocket, with enough room left over for a Moleskine and a pen. Don’t be fooled by its almost palm-sized portability, though: 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.
— Alison Barker, Los Angeles Review of Books

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.
— Thomas H. McNeely, The Rumpus

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.
Publishers Weekly, a PW Pick of the Week

This is a book that readers—and writers—will savor.
— Elizabeth O’Brien, dislocate