Monday, January 10, 2011

Books, books

I was excited this weekend to finally pick up The Finkler Question from the library, after rising to number one in the holds queue (I believe I was at 157 when I started). Already, just 20 or so pages in, it's markedly different from so much of what I have been reading lately--mystery novels and what (wince, wince) I can't help but call chicklit, or women's literature, or something like that. I worry that the difference is that the tone of Finkler is so, well, male in its descriptions of the meeting of a trio of friends from the perspective of a more-or-less perpetual bachelor. This is not to say that the women's lit is bad (Dreaming in French was pretty moving) or even that it's all for and by women (the author of Hummingbirds, a novel about NYC private school politics which I enjoyed more than I'd expected to, is male) but Finkler definitely has a different feel to it. It seems, at this early stage, as crudely stereotypically as I can put it, like a novel of Ideas rather than one of Relationships. We'll see how that bears out.


Another recent read that I found different in an eye-opening way was John Berger's Ways of Seeing, which I'd been wanting to read ever since I saw it on a display table at Williamsburg's always-chic Spoonbill & Sugartown. I first experienced a jolt of recognition about Berger when I realized the song "And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos" by The Story, a favorite of my high school years, was in fact a title of his. A while went by and I proofed a novel of his, but I suspect the real weightiness lies in the critical pieces (maybe I'll give Our Faces a try one day). Ways of Seeing made me contemplate art--especially oil painting--and its relationship to advertising in a whole new, and not terribly positive, light. (In short, art as commodity, as a demonstration of wealth, as a way to manipulate consumers into consuming.) I will remember what I've learned but try not to let it get between me and my anticipated enjoyment of the Barnes Collection in a couple of weeks...


  1. i been meaning to read ways of seeing
    and! ART: YUCK