Body/Mind

Kicking things off at Splice today, here’s my review of the recent reissue of Brian Dillon’s memoir of depression, In the Dark Room:

[In the Dark Room] is a work of formidable intricacy, both conceptually and stylistically. Dillon’s thoughts shuttle back and forth rapidly between the abstract and the concrete, between the ethereal and the corporeal, sometimes in the space of just a sentence or two. He unpicks the fibres of the experiences that have impressed memories upon things he can see and touch, and he seizes at spontaneous recollections and sutures them to objects and locales. Moreover, he does all this with great care for both the lyricism of his own prose and the pertinence of words drawn from other sources.

Of particular note are Dillon’s inimitable sentences. They tend to be long, recondite, and elaborate, yet also rhythmic and eloquent: mimetic of the flow of his thoughts. They are also often convoluted, sometimes obscure, packed with digressions and qualifications in subclauses, parentheses, and asides — not in ways that are purposefully opaque or impenetrable, but in ways that strike an unconventional balance between the sense of a statement and the sensuousness of the prose. They string out their substance along syntactical lines that loop back onto themselves, tying into other lines from other works, other pages, threading the entire book with thoughts that are often begun in a place far removed from where they reach their conclusions. To follow each of them all the way through can require real work on the part of the reader — painstaking attention to modifiers, conjunctions, and punctuation — but the reward for the reader’s labours is prose of such fine textures of meaning and prosody that it is actually able to simulate some of the bodily sensations it describes.

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