When we think of universal themes, obsession certainly isn’t the first to come to mind, but Leslie Jamison—whose newest essay collection, Make It Scream, Make It Burn, out now from Little, Brown, takes the subject as its area of focus—makes a strong case for its ubiquitousness. “You could say that all literature is about obsession,” Jamison says, “because nothing gets written without the driving engine of an obsessive imagination or an obsessive curiosity.” When asked to recommend her favorite titles, “the idea that immediately came to mind would be choosing books about obsession.” Here, four very different books that share this universal theme.
El Túnel (The Tunnel), by Ernesto Sábato
Ernesto Sábato’s El Túnel is an Argentinean novel narrated by a painter who becomes obsessed with a woman who notices an important detail in one of his paintings that everyone else has ignored. It was the first novel I ever read in Spanish, during a summer I spent living in Bolivia, and I was grateful for the fact that so many words and ideas kept recurring—because I didn’t know that many words to begin with, but also because these repetitions shaped how I understood the way obsession can turn the mind from a vast landscape to a deep well.