In bookforum, Alan Gilbert reviews Peter Schjeldahl’s new book, Let’s See: Writings on Art from the New Yorker. “What makes Schjeldahl a pleasure to read is that he loves language as much as art. ‘An utterance that sounds good isn’t always right, but one that sounds bad is invariably wrong,’ he asserts in the book’s introduction, which consists of his responses to twenty questions from various art-world luminaries. Sounding good in part means neither repeating yourself nor droning on and on. Schjeldahl’s ability to coin unique, illuminating, and nonredundant descriptions of artworks after writing countless reviews for forty years is truly remarkable. It may be a holdover from his days as a poet, since nothing kills a poem more than being able to guess the next word. Schjeldahl’s also very good—stylistically, at least—when the art he discusses appeals more to the emotions than to reason. To get an idea of where his sympathies, and passions, lie, one needs only compare his near swoon in the last two paragraphs of a review of Pablo Picasso’s erotic art with his matter-of-fact, no-smelling-salts-required take on the Russian Suprematist Kazimir Malevich.” Read more.
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