Affinities

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Pub Date 16 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 16 Feb 2023

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Description

In Affinities, Brian Dillon explores images and artists he is drawn to or loves, and tries to analyze the attraction.

 

What do we mean when we claim affinity with an object or picture, or say that affinities exist (not only formal) between such things? What do feelings of affinity imply about individual or collective experience of art, and of the world?

 

The word ‘affinity’ used to mean an attraction of opposites, between chemical elements. In his Elective Affinities, Goethe used the idea to think about the orbits and collisions of love. In the poetry and essays of Baudelaire, the writings of Walter Benjamin and Aby Warburg, the art of Tacita Dean and Moyra Davey, a partly buried history of affinity can be found.

 

Affinities is a critical and personal study of a sensation that is not exactly taste, desire, or allyship, but has aspects of all. Approaching this subject via discrete examples, this book is first of all about images – mostly photographs – that have stayed with the author over many years, or grown in significance during months of pandemic isolation, when the visual field had shrunk.

 

Some of these are historical works by artists such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Dora Maar, Claude Cahun, Samuel Beckett and Andy Warhol. Others are more or less obscure scientific or vernacular images: sea creatures, migraine auras, astronomical illustrations derived from dreams. Also family photographs, film stills, records of atomic ruin. And contemporary art by Rinko Kawauchi, Susan Hiller and John Stezaker.

 

Written as a series of linked essays, interwoven with a reflection on affinity itself, Affinities completes a trilogy, with Essayism and Suppose a Sentence, about the intimate and abstract pleasures of reading and looking.

 


In Affinities, Brian Dillon explores images and artists he is drawn to or loves, and tries to analyze the attraction.

 

What do we mean when we claim affinity with an object or picture, or say that...


Advance Praise

 ‘Dillon is a mournful, witty and original writer.’

— Parul Sehgal, New York Times

 

‘Dillon is a literary flaneur in the tradition of Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin.’

— John Banville, Irish Times

 

‘Brian Dillon is one of the true treasures of contemporary literature – a critic and essayist of unmatched style, sensitivity and purpose.’

— Mark O’Connell, author of Notes from an Apocalypse

 ‘Dillon is a mournful, witty and original writer.’

— Parul Sehgal, New York Times

 

‘Dillon is a literary flaneur in the tradition of Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin.’

— John Banville, Irish Times

 

‘Brian...


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ISBN 9781804270165
PRICE £10.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

What a smart and thoughtful writer Dillon is! This book would be especially good for readers (unlike me!) who are as at home with visual images as they are with texts as this collection of essays explores the affinities between media with nuance and an accessible complexity.

While this is not an academic book, it does draw on academic theory (think Barthes, Sontag and so on, writers who have theorised visuality) but isn't weighed down with either footnotes (there is a list of illustrations at the back) or with the burden of an argument. The writing is more free-flowing, making unexpected connections and I especially loved the range of images from seventeenth century engravings to late Victorian photographic portraits to modern images. Divided up into fairly short pieces, this is perfect for dipping into for some intellectual but not dull companionship on the commute.

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Elegantly written and thoughtfully considered. I suspect I’ll be thinking on this one for quite some time to come.

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