On Writing and the Writing Life

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9781593767662 | Paperback 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 | 192 pages Buy it Now

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Book Description

Opacities is a book about writing, publishing, and friendship. Rooted in an epistolary relationship between Sofia Samatar and a friend and fellow writer, this collection of meditations traces Samatar’s attempt to rediscover the intimacy of writing

In a series of compressed, dynamic prose pieces, Samatar blends letters from her friend with notes on literature, turning to Édouard Glissant to study the necessary opacity of identity, to Theresa Hak Kyung Cha for a model of literary kinship, and to a variety of others, including Clarice Lispector, Maurice Blanchot, and Rainer Maria Rilke, for insights on the experience and practice of writing.  

In so doing, Samatar addresses a number of questions about the writing life: Why does publishing feel like the opposite of writing? How can a Black woman navigate interviews and writing conferences without being reduced to a symbol? Are writers located in their biographies or in their texts? And above all, how can the next book be written?

Blurring the line between author and character and between correspondence and literary criticism, Opacities delivers a personal, contemplative exploration of writing where it lives, among impassioned conversations and the work of beloved writers.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

"A writing book that's ruthlessly honest about the problematic questions that arise when you become a voice for your community . . . Deeply researched and razor-sharp." —Leland Cheuk, The Boston Globe

"Sofia Samatar’s Opacities is simply one of the most beautiful books about writing, about being a writer, that I’ve ever read." —Ross Gay, author of Inciting Joy

"Sofia Samatar's Opacities lowers us into the deepest part of the sentence, past ruin, past the drowned, past the moon, past the future, past the writer and her ink where the ragged dark begins to sing. Opacities is a posthumous book written by the living. I read this entire book in the pitch-black to keep all its brilliant secrets safe." —Sabrina Orah Mark, author of Happily

Opacities is a writer’s notebook that we get to read pre-posthumously, a conversation with the self and the dead, a gesture toward the fantasy of publication without publicity. A book for Rilke’s 'narrow ledge,' full of intimacy and intensity, comforts and agitations, the haunting desires of artists.” —Elisa Gabbert, author of Normal Distance and Any Person Is the Only Self

"In the profound company of others and in conversations with ghosts, Opacities is a work of great intimacy and intelligence. It is both mesmerizing and consoling to dwell in the meditative space Sofia Samatar has created. Her submerged narratives haunt (now coming to the surface, now subsiding) allowing room for the reader to enter the text in any number of ways. A most irresistible experience." —Carole Maso, author of AVA and Mother & Child

“Was ever a darkness so refulgent as Sofia Samatar’s Opacities? With her distinctively supple line, Samatar summons a troupe of literary night-guides from Kafka to Djebar and leads us to the so-called vanishing point where scarcity inverts to fullness and nothing vanishes except our certainties. Obsidian, inky, rippling, Vantablack, Samatar’s vision of literature restores the dream of the night library, where we can and should read in the dark, and where the Future rises up with the face of the New Moon—her next and original face.” —Joyelle McSweeney, author of The Necropastoral

"Opacities fantasizes many models of writing, including the 'companion text,' the project that 'lasts your whole life,' the one that includes failure and 'deep aimlessness,' and the book that writes itself, by virtue of an accumulation of index cards in a shoebox. Opacities dreams of connectivity and communion. It strives to bring into correspondence the talismanic writers of the literary imaginary, and, in a voice reminiscent of the address in Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, Samatar conjures an anonymous, epistolary intimate. It is a book about process and ambivalence, one that ultimately evinces a deep-seated passion for the creative acts that are reading and writing." —Moyra Davey, author of Index Cards

"What is a writing method that 'is less like writing and more like living?' Sofia Samatar develops this question as a form of metallurgy in Opacities, a book that sets autobiography in motion until what remains is what we love the most: a notebook. Blurry, snorting and stamping it's hoof in the rain, the notebook's hybridity is both void and animal: 'Zero. Zero.' To write this bifurcated or doubled zero, Samatar thinks 'through the hole.' This is an 'incompleteness' taken to 'extremes,' and I'm here for it. Anything I could possibly write in support of this beautiful book falls short of the elation I felt when reading, something that happened in one sitting because I could not set it down." —Bhanu Kapil