This Brilliant Darkness

Sharlet, Jeff_credit_JuliaRabig

Congratulations to Jeff Sharlet, our 2020 NLW Distinguished Author, for his new book!

Why do we sometimes gravitate toward the unknown when we feel alone? The writing in Jeff Sharlet’s gorgeous new book, ‘This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers,’ takes place between lonely traumas: his father’s heart attack and his own, two years later. As a magazine writer and the author of several books, Sharlet has made a long career of telling stories, but after his heart attack he started to re-evaluate the kinds he thought were worthwhile.


That’s the opening of the stellar review in the New York Times of Sharlet’s seventh book. “He turned to posting snapshots on Instagram. These were not solipsistic selfies but images of strangers and their lives.” It’s a book framed by insomnia, late-night driving and “the companionship of other darkness-dwellers: night bakers and last-call drinkers, frightened people and frightening people, the homeless and the lost (or merely disoriented), addicts and people on the margins.”

Jeff, who was born in Schenectady County, notes that while most of the book is reported, every now and then, it returns to the personal. He says it’s a very upstate book. Three chapters take place in Schenectady, including the longest narrative text-image sequence and the penultimate scene. There are a few other bits of the Capital District, too. It also takes place in L.A., Moscow, Dublin, and Vermont, but there’s a Schenectady sensibility throughout, he believes.

The acclaimed author and journalist is noted for The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, his bestselling 2008 book. It explores the most powerful and most weirdly secretive Christian conservative organization in Washington. The book was adapted to a 2019 five-part Netflix documentary series, THE FAMILY.

Jeff Sharlet is an associate professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth College. His work has earned numerous awards, including the National Magazine Award and the Outspoken Award.

Please Save the Date for the National Library Week Distinguished Author Dinner and Lecture on Wednesday, April 22th with author Jeff Sharlet.

The lecture by Mr. Sharlet will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Washington Avenue Branch, 161 Washington Avenue. It is free and open to the public. Jeff’s The dinner will begin at 5pm p.m. at the University Club, 141 Washington Avenue in Albany and costs $30 per person. Tickets for the dinner will go on sale on March 1st.