Sofia Samatar and Kate Zambreno
Published in 2023
by Columbia University Press

This collaborative study by authors Sofia Samatar and Kate Zambreno, written together under the name of the Committee to Investigate Atmosphere, seeks to examine the indefinable quality of tone in literary work. In seven chapters, the authors interrogate how tone might be defined through human and living beings, the spaces we inhabit, and through sound and feel and our other senses. They write: “A tone is perhaps a room that we inhabit and are inhabited by. It is the interior that surrounds and the exterior that invades. Something we must listen to, be attuned to, within the necessity of silence.” Lyrically written with a conversational tone, this creative criticism seeks knowledge and answers from creative and theoretical works, including translation, by writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Saidiya Hartman, Nella Larsen, Fred Moten, and Sianne Ngai. The authors pose lingering questions throughout the book about the power of atmosphere in literature and how readers often return to books, not for the plot or characters, but to “breathe that air again.”