Maud Casey

The Art of Mystery: The Search for Questions
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The fourteenth volume in the Art of series conjures an ethereal subject: the idea of mystery in fiction. Mystery is not often discussed—apart from the genre—because, as Maud Casey says, "It's not easy to talk about something that is a whispered invitation, a siren song, a flickering light in the distance." Casey, author of several critically-acclaimed novels, reaches beyond the usual toolkit of fictional elements to ask the question: Where does mystery reside in a work of fiction? Casey takes us into the Land of Un—a space of uncertainty and unknowing—to find out. She looks at the variety of ways mystery is created—through character, image, structure, and haunted texts, including the novels of Shirley Jackson, Paul Yoon, J.M. Coetzee, and more. Casey's wide-ranging discussion encompasses spirit photography, the radical nature of empathy, and contradictory characters, as she searches for questions rather than answers. The Art of Mystery is a striking and vibrant addition to the much-beloved Art of series.

"In the 14th volume of Graywolf's The Art Of series, novelist Casey (The Man Who Walked Away) analyzes the inscrutable and enigmatic elements in the work of James Baldwin, Shirley Jackson, Henry James, and others. Casey applies the term 'mystery' broadly (and astutely), describing it as 'a whispered invitation, a siren song, a flickering light in the distance.' ...Those seeking to understand how to bring the ineffable into their own writing would do well to start here." Publishers Weekly

"A rich survey looking beyond the usual academic treatment, for writers and readers alike." Library Journal (starred review)

"Using a variety of compelling examples, the author shows the myriad ways mystery can seduce and conquer....For Casey, the search is the thing, whether as a writer or reader. This slim but astute volume is an inducement both to read more deeply and to head for ever more unchartered, frozen, mysterious waters."Kirkus Reviews

"Books on writing should be inspiring and should remind writers — and readers — why we fell in love with stories in the first place. “The Art of Mystery” does just this."Cedar Rapids Gazette

"Ms. Casey’s premise is important given the high profile of titles such as “How Proust Can Change Your Life,” which can easily be misread as a way to reduce literature to a TED talk. But real fiction isn’t “purely functional” or “only a morality tale,” Ms. Casey tells readers. “Art requires mystery. Mystery . . . requires plunging the reader into that Keatsian state of uncertainty and doubt.”The Wall Street Journal

"To deeply understand the art of mystery, Casey considers its role in other art forms, including the work of the photographer Vivian Maier, who has proved to be as elusive as her subjects. What these all have in common is their concern with searching, rather than finding--a fine distinction that Casey clearly articulates as the essence of the art of mystery.Shelf Awareness