CONVERGENCES: Essays on Art and Literature by Octavio Paz

CONVERGENCES: Essays on Art and Literature

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Whether writing at shorter length about art (Picasso, Miro, American painting, crafts: ""In its perpetual movement back and forth between beauty and utility, pleasure and service, the work of craftsmanship teaches us a lesson in sociability"") or literature (an enlightening short survey of Latin-American modernism; haiku; Quevedo), Paz is a bracing essayist, unencumbered by ideological baggage and delivering his thoughts in very clear prose. That's the case too in the longer pieces here--but in them Paz shows a tendency to turn vatic the larger the metaphor. A long discussion of the relativist physics of literary translation and the pioneering work of US linguist B.L Whorf gets itself tied up in inconclusive knots; one on television and culture is merely windy; and a discussion of sexual freedom and the work of Fourier is larded through with dubieties Paz seems to like more the sound than the sense of: ""In gastronomy as in the erotic, it's desire that sets substances, bodies, and sensation in motion; this is the power that rules their conjunction, commingling, and transmutation. A reasonable cuisine, in which each substance is what it is and in which both variations and contrasts are avoided, is a cuisine that has excluded desire""--clobbering American puritanism over the head with a cheeseburger, in other words, Paz is rarely this silly, but surely he is here. Not as strong perhaps as the brave iconoclasms of Paz's last collection, One Earth, Four or Five Worlds (1985), but always elegant considerations nonetheless.

Pub Date: Nov. 4th, 1987
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich