Exposure by Olivia Sudjic
Giving insight into mental health and modern anxieties, Olivia Sudjic's Exposure is a fascinating peek into the artist’s private rooms
After Olivia Sudjic’s debut novel Sympathy was published, the writer experienced new anxieties. In Exposure, Sudjic explores this uneasy period, at odds with her objective accomplishments. She compares it to 'Saturn’s Return', an astrological period when orbit is completed, “said to be a time of self-scrutiny when harsh truths are laid bare, a casting out from the comparative shelter of youth".
Exposure opens with a compelling description of a writer’s retreat where Sudjic expected to move on from her first novel but was dogged by paranoia and depersonalisation. Via intelligent comment on hypervigilance of social media (“a creeping feeling of being observed, followed, recorded, predicted”) and cultural tendency for women’s writing to be considered not art but self-confession, Sudjic shares her own experiences as a debut writer, describing encountering online reviews of her work “as though ants crawled over” her skin and the “solipsistic crawl space” of the writer’s mind. There are frequent references to writers such as Ferrante, Cusk and Maggie Nelson: “The more I read by the women I admire – and I retreat into those talisman texts to reorient myself every time I need to – the more I think of anxiety as a dual force that seems essential not just for living but for creativity.”
Exposure is a smart book, insightful on mental health and modern anxieties, and a fascinating peek into the artist’s private rooms.