Intimacies by Katie Kitamura with Libertine Syrah #3
Something about this time of year has me turning “inward”— toward a certain type of book, or rather, a certain tone of book: A Winter Book, if you will, a distinction that has less to do with the weather as it does with the current atmosphere of my mind. A trap just for me. To read Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies is to feel at once unmoored by its tonal range and yet firmly rooted in its structure: the possibilities of a year. A single year. And while Intimacies seems to tick all of the boxes for the type of hyper-contemporary novel we’re seeing more of these days, obsessed with interiority, structured by short periods of time, a narrator on the fringes of self-understanding, it does so in a way that gets under the skin: the narrative itself implicated in what it means “to face inward, to turn your back on the storm brewing outside.” The novel’s field of vision explores the intimacies of knowledge, and, even further, the intimacy of the things we do not know. It is a novel about interiority, yes, but Kitamura does not allow us to turn away from the cracks in the facade of calm, from what’s breaking down around us, from the vastness just outside—pressing upon the narrator, and on us. Despite the novel’s attempt to turn away from the storm, or the crumbling city, we are very much left out in it.
But what makes something a Winter book? For me, it’s a book that makes me feel how I feel while watching snow fall. The tone of it—at once peaceful and utterly destabilizing—to find oneself absorbed in the act of viewing, only to emerge, however imperceptibly, into an altered atmosphere. Which is perhaps why I loved it so much: once we know we can not return to a state of not knowing. There is something inherently intimate in this realization, or in that kind of shift. One that doesn’t conclude as much as it creeps into your field of vision, leaving you with the sense that “the appearance of simplicity is not the same thing as simplicity itself.”
Libertine’s Syrah number 3, is a wine that possesses a lot of possibilities: the possibility of creating three different endings from the same grape. This version is 100% Syrah that undergoes carbonic fermentation, then aged in neutral oak which imparts upon it the tonal quality of oak: almost, but not all the way. Made from grapes grown organically on the Dion Vineyard in the Willamette Valley, it’s a luscious wine: the color of rubies, with the structure of river silt; it smells like green rhubarb, and leaves me with the overwhelming sense of having licked an old, crumbling stone wall. It’s a rather tonal wine, in a way that feels both ancient and new, and perhaps even a little unfinished—though not in a way we minded at all.
Katie Kitamura is a Japanese-American novelist, journalist, and art critic. She is the author of four novels, of which Intimacies is the most recent. She currently lives in New York where she teaches at New York University.
Libertine Vineyard is a project of Alex and Veronica Neely in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Their winery is built on the principle of spirit and experimentation. This is 100% Syrah from the Dion vineyard: spontaneously fermented with a little sulfur added at bottling.