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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 zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.

A revealing biography of the fabled Manhattan hotel, in which generations of artists and writers found a haven.

Turn-of-the century New York did not lack either hotels or apartment buildings, writes Tippins (February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America, 2005). But the Chelsea Hotel, from its very inception, was different. Architect Philip Hubert intended the elegantly designed Chelsea Association Building to reflect the utopian ideals of Charles Fourier, offering every amenity conducive to cooperative living: public spaces and gardens, a dining room, artists’ studios, and 80 apartments suitable for an economically diverse population of single workers, young couples, small families and wealthy residents who otherwise might choose to live in a private brownstone. Hubert especially wanted to attract creative types and made sure the building’s walls were extra thick so that each apartment was quiet enough for concentration. William Dean Howells, Edgar Lee Masters and artist John Sloan were early residents. Their friends (Mark Twain, for one) greeted one another in eight-foot-wide hallways intended for conversations. In its early years, the Chelsea quickly became legendary. By the 1930s, though, financial straits resulted in a “down-at-heel, bohemian atmosphere.” Later, with hard-drinking residents like Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan, the ambience could be raucous. Arthur Miller scorned his free-wheeling, drug-taking, boozy neighbors, admitting, though, that the “great advantage” to living there “was that no one gave a damn what anyone else chose to do sexually.” No one passed judgment on creativity, either. But the art was not what made the Chelsea famous; its residents did. Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Robert Mapplethorpe, Phil Ochs and Sid Vicious are only a few of the figures populating this entertaining book.

A zesty, energetic history, not only of a building, but of more than a century of American culture.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-618-72634-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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