VERMEER IN BOSNIA: Cultural Comedies and Political Tragedies

Lawrence Weschler, Author . Pantheon $25 (432p) ISBN 978-0-679-44270-7

This volume collects two decades' worth of longtime New Yorker staff writer Weschler's original meditations on the arts and current events. In a pair of opening essays on the Balkans, Weschler (Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder ) recalls conversations with two distinguished jurists on the Hague's Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal whose comments led him to explore the peacefulness of Vermeer's paintings in the war-torn context in which they were created, and Shakespeare's Henry V' s depiction of wartime atrocity. A third Balkans essay recalls Belgrade's carnivalesque anti-Milosevic protests of November 1996, commenting on Serbian nationalist reflexes. A group of essays entitled "Three Polish Survivor Stories" opens with a riveting profile of Roman Polanski, in which Weschler relates the director's cinematic aesthetic to Polanski's childhood Holocaust experiences and to the violent events of his adult life. Weschler also profiles the Polish-Jewish newspaperman Jerzy Urban and converses with cartoonist Art Spiegelman, whose Holocaust-themed work Maus, based on his parents' lives, generates insights into a Jewish-American generation gap. In three rich pieces relating to Los Angeles, Weschler evokes artist Bob Irwin's 1950s high school days, writes superbly about earthquakes and discusses with artists and a cinematographer the uncanny qualities of the city's notorious light. Weschler also brilliantly draws out from David Hockney the process of discovery behind that artist's highly developed photo collages and studies the impact of Parkinson's disease on Ed Weinberger's sculptural furniture. Less satisfying is a family biography section, centered on Weschler's grandfather, that lacks philosophical shape. Admirers of Weschler's blend of reportage, history and art criticism as well as newcomers will enjoy the far-ranging collection. Illus. Agent, Sterling Lord Literistic . (July 6)

Reviewed on: 05/17/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 432 pages - 978-0-679-77740-3
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-307-83341-9
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