Emily Ogden and Stephen Sparks

A conversation about On Not Knowing: How to Love and Other Essays
Emily Ogden Point Reyes Books University of Chicago Press
Tuesday, June 7, 2022 - 5:30pm
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Emily Ogden joins Point Reyes Books' owner Stephen for a conversation about her collection of essays, On Not Knowing: How to Love and Other Essays (University of Chicago Press).

On Not Knowing is many things: a brilliant close reading of motherhood; a tonic counter to ‘self-help’ books; an intimate, unsentimental tribute to children; and an extended riff on how we make meaning with language. What is most extraordinary is how Ogden takes a surface moment of the everyday and deftly turns and deepens it until she arrives at a space of luminous complexity.” — Dana Spiotta, author of 'Wayward: A Novel'

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About On Not Knowing

A beautifully written suite of personal essays on the value of not knowing.

Moments of clarity are rare and fleeting; how can we become comfortable outside of them, in the more general condition of uncertainty within which we make our lives? Written by English professor Emily Ogden while her children were small, On Not Knowing forays into this rich, ambivalent space. Each of her sharply observed essays invites the reader to think with her about questions she can’t set aside: not knowing how to give birth, to listen, to hold it together, to love.

Unapologetically capacious in her range of reference and idiosyncratic in the canon she draws on, Ogden moves nimbly among the registers of experience, from the operation of a breast pump to the art of herding cattle; from one-night stands to the stories of Edgar Allan Poe; from kayaking near a whale to a psychoanalytic meditation on drowning. Committed to the accumulation of knowledge, Ogden nonetheless finds that knowingness for her can be a way of getting stuck, a way of not really living. Rather than the defensiveness of willful ignorance, On Not Knowing celebrates the defenselessness of not knowing yet—possibly of not knowing ever. Ultimately, this book shows how resisting the temptation of knowingness and embracing the position of not knowing becomes a form of love.

About the participants

Emily Ogden is associate professor of English at the University of Virginia and the author of Credulity: A Cultural History of US Mesmerism, also published by the University of Chicago Press. You can find her on Twitter at @ENOgden. She lives in Charlottesville, VA. 

Stephen Sparks is co-owner of Point Reyes Books. His writing has appeared in Tin House, the Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. He is currently writing a book about weather.

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On Not Knowing: How to Love and Other Essays Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780226751351
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: University of Chicago Press - April 20th, 2022