THE LOOK OF THINGS by John Berger

THE LOOK OF THINGS

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Berger is a Marxist critic who so far eludes sectarian expectations that his writing seems closer in temper to the tradition of Ruskin and Pater -- that is to say, a tradition of fine writing suffused with self and appreciation. These essays -- on artists, genres, specific cases in many spheres of culture and the arts -- appear to have been produced over a fairly long period. One supposes anyway that his discussion, say, of Leger as epic-painter-of-means-of-production, would have preceded an extremely percipient piece on Walter Benjamin, a neglected, profoundly original writer whose ways of conceiving of art in history seem to have influenced Berger's own. Like Benjamin, Berger is never mechanically socio-historical; rather he focuses on the dimension of consciousness that is represented by style -- style as a fundamental, certainly legitimate element of communication, as in a brief, brilliant analysis of the Marxian rhetoric of the Eighteenth Brumaire; style as a personal achievement (as in a series of testaments to lives outside the capitalist fold) which alters qualitatively with acceptance and absorption into the cultural trust; stylistic possibility as a measure of general imaginative Lebensraum. Media and genres are treated correspondingly, e.g., the different contingencies of portraiture and photographs. Berger's own mobile, epigrammatically precise style is a proper vehicle for these forays beyond interpretation, though sometimes too it tempts him to make more than necessary of local errands ("At the Zoo"). Whether you see that as a failing depends on your point of view. Diversely rewarding.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1974
ISBN: 0670439878
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1974




MORE BY JOHN BERGER

NonfictionLANDSCAPES by John Berger
by John Berger
NonfictionPORTRAITS by John Berger
by John Berger
NonfictionBENTO'S SKETCHBOOK by John Berger
by John Berger

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionPORTRAITS by John Berger
by John Berger