Sunday, September 30, 2007

TLS September 28 2007

from James Hall's review of Patricia Lee Rubin's Images and Identity in Fifteenth Century Florence:

In her section on vision...she refers to Lorenzo Ghiberti's discussion of optics in his autobiographical treatise, and then concludes that the primacy of sight was "unquestioned" in fifteenth century Florence. Yet one of Ghiberti's most striking remarks concerns the discovery of an antique statue of a hemaphrodite in a drain in Rome: "In this statue were the greatest refinements. The eye perceived nothing if the hand had not found it by touch". No doubt Giovanni Chelleini and his descendants would have thought the same about Donatello's roundel, and would have passed their fingers over it both to appreciate the marvellous variations in texture--and to touch God. Art was cherished and pored over, and not just glanced at on the way to the market, bank or port.


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from Bharat Tandon's review of Philip Roth's Exit Ghost:

Exit Ghost's focus is more on the smaller physical and emotional scarrings that are part of the publicly brutalized landscape. And if much of the novel plays old against new, with the present recapitulating the past, Zuckerman's story highlights that terrible form of self-reference around which so much of Roth's recent work has circled: the fact that ageing lampoons us all, makes us grotesque bodily parodies of ourselves. Where Zuckerman of the early novels could be prodigal with his semen, now he just leaks urine, and the dignity of Roth's writing...lies in his not sparing Zuckerman the indignity.

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...Roth's later fiction has often fought shy of the consolations of denouement, of resolving into major-key finales: American Pastoral ended with an angry rhetorical question ("What in earth is less reprehensible than the life of the Levovs?") and the final four words of The Plot Against America were "I was the prothesis". If Roth is going to grant us these comforts, he wants us to know how prosthetic they often are. "Gone for good" are Zuckerman's last words here, but they exist in the imaginary space of He and She; Roth lets them stand, but what also stands is the ghostly testament of E. I. Lonoff:

Then one morning he spoke. He had been unconscious all the day before. He said, "The end is so immense, it is its own poetry. It requires little rhetoric. Just state it plainly."

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