Objects in This Mirror is a collection of essays on contemporary art, literature, landscape, aesthetics, and cultural history. Beginning with a polemical and personal defense of generalism and curiosity, Brian Dillon explores the variety of themes it is possible today to corral within the rubric of the critical essay. These pieces engage with the work of such artists as Tacita Dean, Gerard Byrne, Andy Warhol, and Sophie Calle; with the ruinous territories that haunt the work of Robert Smithson and Derek Jarman; with the ambiguous figures of the charlatan, the vandal, the hypochondriac, and the dandy. Taking seriously the playful remit of the essay as form, Dillon treats of compelling obscurities: gesture manuals of the nineteenth century, the history of antidepressant marketing, the search for a cure to the common cold. Whether his topic is the nature of slapstick, his love of the writings of Roland Barthes, or the genre of the essay itself, he is as much concerned with the form of criticism today as with its varied and digressive subjects.
“Like Roland Barthes and Virginia Woolf, Brian Dillon pays lavish attention to curious byways that usually go without saying. In sentences at once playful and majestic, he plumbs the intellectual depths of his subjects, and reveals a perverse, nearly dandyish love for odd facts and iconoclastic vistas. There is more than a touch of W. G. Sebald—the Wordsworthian wanderer, the romantic itinerant—in Dillon’s melancholy yet mood-spiked attitude toward the material objects that greet his sober, ever-evaluating eye. Reading Objects in This Mirror, we participate in Dillon’s restless perambulations, and we are delighted to be thus transported.”