In-Person: CONTRADICTION DAYS by JoAnna Novak

Join us for an in-person event celebrating the release of CONTRADICTION DAYS by JoAnna Novak! For this event, JoAnna will be joined in conversation by Amanda Goldblatt. 

Please note: Pre-registration for this event is required. By pre-registering, you are verifying that you are fully vaccinated and will wear a mask throughout the entirety of the event.


For readers of Rachel Cusk and Maggie Nelson, the rapturous memoir of a soon-to-be-mother whose obsession with the reclusive painter Agnes Martin threatens to upend her life

Five months pregnant and struggling with a creative block, JoAnna Novak becomes obsessed with the enigmatic abstract expressionist painter Agnes Martin. She is drawn to the contradictions in Martin’s life as well as her art—the soft and exacting brushstrokes she employs for grid-like compositions that are both rigid and dreamy. But what most calls to JoAnna is Martin’s dedication to her work in the face of paranoid schizophrenia.

Uneasy with the changes her pregnant body is undergoing, JoAnna relapses into damaging old habits and thought patterns. When she confides in her doctor that she’s struggling with depression and suicidal ideation, he tells her she must stop being so selfish, given she has a baby on the way, and start taking antidepressants. Appalled by his patronizing tone and disregard of her mental health history, JoAnna instead turns to Martin for guidance, adopting the artist's doctrine of joyful solitude and isolation.

JoAnna heads to Taos, where Martin lived for decades, and gives herself three weeks to model her hermetic existence: phone off, email off, no talking to her husband, no touching the dog. Out of a deep, solitary engagement with a remarkable artist’s body of work emerges an entirely new way for JoAnna to relate to the contradictions of her own body and face up to the joys and challenges of impending motherhood.

JoAnna Novak's short story collection Meaningful Work won the Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Contest. She is the author of three books of poetry, most recently New Life, and a novel, I Must Have You. Her work has appeared in The New YorkerThe Paris ReviewThe New York Times, and other publications.

Amanda Goldblatt is the author of the novel Hard Mouth, from Counterpoint Press. Her fiction and essays can be found at Guernica, Chicago ReviewFence, and elsewhere. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, a committed creative writing educator, and a book editor, most recently of Anne Yoder's The Enhancers. Amanda lives in Chicago. 

Accessibility: This event is hosted at the bookstore, which is a wheelchair accessible space. Face masks are required for events. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. For questions or other access needs, please email 

Event date: 
Friday, July 28, 2023 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Event address: 
5233 N Clark St
Contradiction Days: An Artist on the Verge of Motherhood By JoAnna Novak Cover Image
ISBN: 9781646220762
Availability: On our shelves recently
Published: Catapult - July 25th, 2023