NYRB: Brian Dillon presents "Suppose a Sentence," with Vinson Cunningham

October 8, 2020, 6:30 PM

Brian Dillon joins us for the release of his new book, Suppose a Sentence, in conversation with Vinson Cunningham. This program is part of our ongoing series with The New York Review of Books, and will take place on Zoom. Register here: 

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In Suppose a Sentence, Brian Dillon, whom John Banville has called “a literary flâneur in the tradition of Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin,” has written a sequel of sorts to Essayism, his roaming love letter to literature. In this new book Dillon turns his attention to the oblique and complex pleasures of the sentence. A series of essays prompted by a single sentence—from Shakespeare to Janet Malcolm, John Ruskin to Joan Didion—the book explores style, voice, and language, along with the subjectivity of reading. Both an exercise in practical criticism and a set of experiments or challenges, Suppose a Sentence is a polemical and personal reflection on the art of the sentence in literature. Whether the sentence in question is a rigorous expression of a state of vulnerability, extremity, even madness, or a carefully calibrated arrangement, Dillon examines not only how it works and why but also, in the course of the book, what the sentence once was, what it is today, and what it might become tomorrow.

"Taking as his starting point a sentence that has intrigued him for years or, in some cases, come into his ken more recently, Brian Dillon in Suppose a Sentence ranges through the centuries exploring the associations of what he observes and discovers about his object of study and its writer, through biographical anecdote, linguistic speculation, and a look at related writings. This rich and various collection resembles a beguiling, inspiriting conversation with a personable and wry intelligence who keeps you happily up late by the fireside, incites you to note some follow-up reading, and opens your eyes further to the multifarious syntactical and emotional capacities of even a few words of English. Enjoyable and thought-provoking reading!" —Lydia Davis

Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969. His books include The Great Explosion (short-listed for the Ondaatje Prize), Objects in This Mirror: EssaysI Am Sitting in a RoomSanctuaryTormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac LivesIn the Dark Room, and with New York Review Books, Essayism. His writing has appeared in The GuardianThe New York Times, the London Review of BooksThe Times Literary SupplementBookforumFriezeArtforum4Columns, and The Yale Review. He is the UK editor of Cabinet magazine and teaches creative writing at Queen Mary University of London.

Vinson Cunningham joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2016. His writing on books, art, and culture has appeared in the Times Magazine, the Times Book Review, Vulture, The Awl, The Fader, and McSweeney’s, where he wrote a column called “Field Notes from Gentrified Places.” He previously served as a staff assistant at the Obama White House, and is based in New York City.