cover image Keeping a Rendezvous

Keeping a Rendezvous

John Berger. Pantheon Books, $21 (242pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40632-7

While each of Berger's essays originates from a single image or idea, the resulting train of thought is held to no predictable itinerary. A trip to a Swiss zoo segues into a meditation on apes, with whom we share 99% of our DNA genetic code, and then into thoughts on birth and death. Reflections on his obsessive childhood fear that his parents might die leads to a confession about how he became a writer. As an art critic, Berger ( The Sense of Sight ) constantly surprises. He fathoms Renoir's ``sweet paintings of a terrible loss'' in terms of the impressionist's fears of women and of reality. He analyzes Henry Moore's sculptures as erotic monuments to the mute, pre-verbal experiences of infants. In other pieces, Berger interprets today's resurgent nationalisms and such events as miners' strikes as protests against the marginalization of the spiritual. These 25 masterful, absorbing essays link the moral to the aesthetic, the personal to the political. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)