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This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  67 ratings  ·  17 reviews
In the spirit of James Agee and W. G. Sebald, a profound work of literary art wedded to photographs.

As a journalist suddenly skeptical of the power of words to tell the deepest truths of other peoples stories, Jeff Sharlet turned to taking snapshots and posting them on Instagramimages that he then reflected on in words of extraordinary intimacy and power. A visionary work
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by W. W. Norton Company
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Michael Smith
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful and deeply important book for 2020, another election year when well hear rhetoric without action, and lose touch yet again with the majority who suffer without representation. Hopefully this book cracks a few of us open and serves as a reminder that we cant know whats best for all if were not willing to get out there and listen to the most vulnerable amongst us.

Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An emotional, heartfelt requiem on the painful parts of humanity that gives gentle audience to the people, places, and experiences that make most of us avert our gaze.

Neatly held in place by the bookends of the authors fathers heart attack and his own, This Brilliant Darkness is a two year photo-journal of the people in society that fill the castes of Unnoticed and Untouchable. Sharlet brings a humane gentleness to his interactions with the self-proclaimed junkies, the night shift workers, the
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful surprise of a book. Photographs and stories, most of them set-piece length. A particularly beautiful one about Russians. A few of those. Quite good.
Ben Rosenstock
Feb 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Took a long break in the middle of reading this (short) book, and I wish I hadnt, because by the time I came back it felt like a chore. But its not at allthe book is short, super readable, and really beautiful, and I think if Id read it all at once Id be giving it an even higher rating. Its kind of a collection of Humans of New York-style vignettes, though most of the time there isnt really a core theme, lesson, or arc in each story.

I really like the way Jeff Sharlet focuses on other people and
Cecilia Domoto
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
How often do we encounter a book that is tough, difficult, and makes us uncomfortable?

Jeff Sharlets The Brilliant Darkness is this kind of book. He tells stories of strangers: people with guns, people with knives, homeless and house-less people, people living in the motels, the far-rights, the neo-fascists, the addicts, the anti-homosexuals, but they are also fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. They are people who associate with the dark side of our society, and who always frighten us.

Bruce Cline
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This Brilliant Darkness, A Book if Strangers, by Jeff Sharlet (pp 315. Published 2020. In some ways this is an oddly interesting book: a collection of stories illustrated with photos taken by the author, who upfront claims not to be a photographer. By the look of his shots, hes right: his phone snapshots are dark, fuzzy, often indistinct, and lacking detail. His stories, ranging from a single paragraph to many pages, are about people hes met on the street. These are not people most of us have ...more
Trey Hall
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
How to describe this plaintive, splendid book? An old-school album of digital photos, a collection of the testimonies of forgotten people, true and evanescent. A series of ... what? ... prayers?, intercessions towards no personally named or actually-believed-in god, but divine all the same.

Reading it, seeing it feels like a Lenten journey. Disconsolate. Beatific. With wild beasts and attended by angels. "Never before in my life," writes the author, "has just being here - with the fox and the
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Stunning combination of narrative and images (photos from the authors phone) of the most ignored people and places in our cities around the world. People who live in Skid Row, homeless in the U.S., being gay in Russia, poor in Africa.

An illustrated insomniacs obsessive story of life on the edge, framed by his own deep grief and a sort of genetic ennui. This book reminded me of my own time working as the maintenance man at a private home for schizophrenic young adults and teens. Deep crazy but
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This Brilliant Darkness is an empathetic and beautifully human work of journalism. After having a heart attack in his forties, Jeff Sharlet starts taking photos and posting them on Instagram of people he meets. There's the night shift workers, the LGBTQ+ population in Russia, an inspiring actor killed by police on Skid Row, and Mary, who goes nowhere without her beloved plant Bandit, among others. If you need a book that will make you feel more connected to humanity at large, this is an ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If one of literature's primary powers is to jettison us from our myopic lives and into the dark, liminal headspace of others, then Sharlet's latest photojournalist collection shines a heavenly light on this brilliant darkness. Maybe my desire to apply hyperbolic praise on Jeff is due to the fortunate fact that this book and reader merged at an optimal moment in time. Regardless, I present Exhibit A on why creative nonfiction--when done correctly--kicks the mighty ass out of your favorite fiction ...more
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a talent, to see those that others would walk past and then to express them in words that show who they are, beneath the surface, back to the days when life was not so bleak. I was not prepared for how much I would love this book with its poetic phrases, its glimpses into an America many would rather forget, and its honest look at the PEOPLE who make up our biggest controversies. Beautiful book!
George Wallace
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
What makes the darkness brilliant it seems Jeff implies is the courage of those who work the night shift. Contemplative and a mix of photographs and his musings. I especially liked the section about Charly Keunang who was tragically killed by police in a way that begs for social reflection and an honest and redemptive discussion (Truth and Reconciliation style) of race and class and violence in our culture.
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you to Jeff Sharlet the Dog for the push I needed to check out Jeff Sharlet the Writer-- a decision I don't regret. This book was an absolutely lovely read; a difficult, moving, empathetic little book. I loved the prose. I cried a couple times. I really really liked it.
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-won
I won a copy of this book.

This book follows the two years between Jeff Sharlet's father's heart attack and his own. Sharlet takes photos, shares stories, and put together a very interesting and different book.
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, memoir, nonfiction
Mar 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: shift workers, insomniacs, plant ladies
Recommended to Kate by: 818.603 SH
In between the guess and the light-as-it-was stands me.

When you can't sleep you might as well stop trying.
D.J. Desmond
Mar 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I'm torn - I think this is one of the most unique books I have ever read, yet I don't really have any big takeaways from it. It was a cool experience with the form, but that's about it.
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I'm a contributing editor for Harper's and Rolling Stone and I also write about music for Oxford American, politics for The Nation, and media for The Revealer, a review of religion and the press published by the New York University Center for Religion and Media, where I'm an associate research scholar.
I'm the author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power (Harper,

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