Leslie Jamison and the Anxiety of Authorship
Art Business

Leslie Jamison and the Anxiety of Authorship

Leslie Jamison, the author of “Make It Scream, Make It Burn.” “Make It Scream, Make It Burn,” a new collection of essays by Leslie Jamison, meets many of the prerequisites conjured by the phrase “collection of essays by Leslie Jamison.” It explores notions of witness, storytelling, and authenticity; of art and morality; and of pain—others’ and one’s own. Stylistically, the book is almost frustratingly eloquent. Jamison, who has also authored an addiction memoir, “ The Recovering ,” can pin an idea with the speed and fluidity of a pro athlete. (A stepmother becomes “a token mascot of the dark maternal.”) She thinks ethically but feels aesthetically. Her writing, although lyrical, proceeds with a precise, searching sobriety—each sentence a controlled swoon. A question raised by these new essays is whether they advance the work done by “ The Empathy Exams ,” Jamison’s breakthrough book. One feat of that volume, from 2014, was to establish an analogy between the mechanics of empathy and those of metaphor. Empathy—feeling with or as someone else—projects the self onto another, and metaphor projects meaning onto the world. In pieces on ultramarathoners and poverty tourists and people suffering from mysterious (and perhaps psychosomatic) illnesses, Jamison defended […]

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