In Amina Cain's first nonfiction book, a series of essayistic inquiries come together to form a sustained meditation on writers and their works, on the spaces of reading and writing fiction, and how these spaces take shape inside a life.
Fragments of moving image, performance art, paintings, etchings, and prints materialize and dissipate, and a dialogue between these impressions opens up like a portal of ambiences, coming into focus yet remaining out of grasp ... In some ways this book functions as a gallery of interiority, deep and fluctuating with nebular dispositions and impulses. It is an effort towards articulating the intangible ... a transmutation of fiction and nonfiction, a form of unfurling, soft and grainy at the edges. Moving through this text feels like resting your eyes on shifting shapes on a walk in the dusk ... She moves with an illuminating ease between personal observation, art criticism, and fragments of memoir ... Cain introduces the reader to the landscapes of her own mind; 'I have always carried warmth into the cold.' She writes into the tension between hostile environments and soothing anchors, moments that hover between jeopardy and safety ... a meditative tuning into the sensual experience of being, possibly in multiple places at once; a porous present that has a synesthetic fluidity ... Her prose evokes the textures of visual art in the way it sustains tension and ambiguity ... Occasionally, Cain’s sentences peter out with an idiosyncratic wittering, what seems like a red herring in her own prose, an aside. Cain’s writing is so precise I wonder if this is one of the places she hides things ... ignites a yearning to move in the darkness towards the unknown, to write into the particularities and into the ether.
... an allusive and engaging account of the raptures you’d miss if complete creative ease were really possible ... You might well conclude that some of Cain’s longings, not to mention the way she expresses them, risk sounding banal. She wants, lacks, imagines an authenticity in herself and her work...At times Cain seems to embrace somewhat misty-eyed notions of truth in creative solitude, some talismanic-mystical relation to animals and landscape, a faintly so-what account of the value of friendship. At times A Horse at Night can read like writerly self-help or easy consolation, even if its author is aware of her tendencies...Except: there is something a little off in even the most straightforward of Cain’s assertions...what she discovers is frequently peculiar, or at least so oddly phrased that you have to stop and go back, hearing an eccentricity that was easy to miss the first time ... reveals itself as a stranger and more exacting (in thought, in tone) book than its ambulant, dissolving themes appear to allow.
... a spare, graceful meditation on her rich, idiosyncratic reading and her practice of writing ... Cain ties her development as a writer to her engagement in zazen meditation; in stillness, she was able to listen for her voice ... An intimate recounting of a literary life.