The Nothing That Is
Essays on Art, Literature and Being
Rather than making “something” out of “nothing,” what follows is an endeavour to express the potential of language and thought to encounter what is infinitely beyond both yet to be imagined.
In The Nothing That Is, Johanna Skibsrud gathers essays about the very concept of “nothing.” Addressing a broad range of topics—including false atrocity tales, so-called fake news, high-wire acts, and telepathy, as well as responses to works by John Ashbery, Virginia Woolf, Anne Carson, and more—these essays seek to decentre our relationship to both the “givenness” of history and to a predictive or probable model of the future.
The Nothing That Is explores ways in which poetic language can activate the possibilities replete within our every moment. Skibsrud reveals that within every encounter between a speaking “I” and what exceeds subjectivity, there is a listening “Other,” be it community or the objective world.
JOHANNA SKIBSRUD is a novelist, poet and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Arizona. Her debut novel, The Sentimentalists, was awarded the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, making her the youngest writer to win Canada’s most prestigious literary prize. The book was subsequently shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Award and is currently translated into five languages. The New York Times Book Review describes her second novel, Quartet for the End of Time (2014), as a “haunting” exploration of “the complexity of human relationships and the myriad ways in which identity can be malleable.” Johanna is also the author of a third novel, Island (2019), two collections of short fiction, a children’s book, and three books of poetry. Her latest poetry collection, The Description of the World (2016), was the recipient of the 2017 Canadian Author’s Association for Poetry and the 2017 Fred Cogswell Award. A critical monograph titled The Poetic Imperative: A Speculative Aesthetics is forthcoming from McGill-Queen’s University Press in Spring 2020.