THE SENSE OF SIGHT

WRITINGS BY JOHN BERGER

Someone, at some time, must have told Berger he was sensitive. Now in this latest collection of the British critic/novelist's essays, poems, tales and reminiscences, readers are being forced to pay the price for that misdirected compliment. No subject, it seems, from peasants' eating habits to the rumpled sheet in a Frans Hals painting is safe from Berger's "sensitivity." He is like the unwanted dinner partner, secure in the murky subtleties of his own perceptions, while we try to catch the host's eye in a desperate plea for relief. The "host" in this case is Spencer, but expect no relief from him; he finds Berger's "concentration. . .a kind of instantaneous instruction." Never has "instantaneous instruction" (whatever it may be) been so muddled, so inconsequential, so long-winded. After 10 years as art critic of the New Statesman, Berger left England in the 1960's and settled in a small French Alpine village. Many of the pieces here concern their lives and Berger's tortured analyses of their thoughts and emotions. All his perceptions have a strongly Marxist slant and rely on fairly formulaic leftist principles. In this area, Berger also recounts meetings with a number of his socialist confreres, most from Eastern Europe, most little known. In between, the reader is treated to a few poems, a dissertation on Berger's reactions to his father's death, a critique of the works of Garcia Marquez, among other topics. All are needlessly opaque. The miasma clears somewhat when Berger turns his attention to the world of art. His essay on the sadness inherent in Monet's Impressionism and his speculations on Goya's reasons for painting the nude Maja are of passing interest. Too, his treatment of Cubism, its origins and objectives, one of the longer pieces in the book, is coherent and sometimes even perceptive. The occasional pleasures to be found in The Sense of Sight cannot, however, outweigh the tedium and air of self-congratulation to be found on almost every page.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 1985

ISBN: 0679737227

Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1985

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A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

HOW TO BE AN ARTIST

A noted critic advises us to dance to the music of art.

Senior art critic at New York Magazine and winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism, Saltz (Seeing Out Louder, 2009, etc.) became a writer only after a decadeslong battle with “demons who preached defeat.” Hoping to spare others the struggle that he experienced, he offers ebullient, practical, and wise counsel to those who wonder, “How can I be an artist?” and who “take that leap of faith to rise above the cacophony of external messages and internal fears.” In a slim volume profusely illustrated with works by a wide range of artists, Saltz encourages readers to think, work, and see like an artist. He urges would-be artists to hone their power of perception: “Looking hard isn’t just about looking long; it’s about allowing yourself to be rapt.” Looking hard yields rich sources of visual interest and also illuminates “the mysteries of your taste and eye.” The author urges artists to work consistently and early, “within the first two hours of the day,” before “the pesky demons of daily life” exert their negative influence. Thoughtful exercises underscore his assertions. To get readers thinking about genre and convention, for example, Saltz presents illustrations of nudes by artists including Goya, Matisse, Florine Stettheimer, and Manet. “Forget the subject matter,” he writes, “what is each of these paintings actually saying?” One exercise instructs readers to make a simple drawing and then remake it in an entirely different style: Egyptian, Chinese ink-drawing, cave painting, and the styles of other artists, like Keith Haring and Georgia O’Keeffe. Freely experiment with “different sizes, tools, materials, subjects, anything,” he writes. “Don’t resist something if you’re afraid it’s taking you far afield of your usual direction. That’s the wild animal in you, feeding.” Although much of his advice is pertinent to amateur artists, Saltz also rings in on how to navigate the art world, compose an artist’s statement, deal with rejection, find a community of artists, and beat back demons. Above all, he advises, “Work, Work, Work.”

A succinct, passionate guide to fostering creativity.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-08646-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.

MY NAME IS PRINCE

A Los Angeles–based photographer pays tribute to a legendary musician with anecdotes and previously unseen images collected from their 25-year collaboration.

St. Nicholas (co-author: Whitney: Tribute to an Icon, 2012, etc.) first met Prince in 1991 at a prearranged photo shoot. “The dance between photographer and subject carried us away into hours of inspired photographs…and the beginning of a friendship that would last a lifetime.” In this book, the author fondly remembers their many professional encounters in the 25 years that followed. Many would be portrait sessions but done on impulse, like those in a burned-out Los Angeles building in 1994 and on the Charles Bridge in Prague in 2007. Both times, the author and Prince came together through serendipity to create playfully expressive images that came to represent the singer’s “unorthodox ability to truly live life in the moment.” Other encounters took place while Prince was performing at Paisley Park, his Minneapolis studio, or at venues in LA, New York, Tokyo, and London. One in particular came about after the 1991 release of Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album and led to the start of St. Nicholas’ career as a video director. Prince, who nurtured young artists throughout his career, pushed the author to “trust my instincts…expand myself creatively.” What is most striking about even the most intimate of these photographs—even those shot with Mayte Garcia, the fan-turned–backup dancer who became Prince’s wife in 1996—is the brilliantly theatrical quality of the images. As the author observes, the singer was never not the self-conscious artist: “Prince was Prince 24/7.” Nostalgic and reverential, this book—the second St. Nicholas produced with/for Prince—is a celebration of friendship and artistry. Prince fans are sure to appreciate the book, and those interested in art photography will also find the collection highly appealing.

A dazzling visual homage to a music icon gone too soon.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-293923-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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