A Writer for Our Time: The Life and Work of John Berger
Sperling, a visiting assistant professor of cinema studies at Oberlin, cogently argues that Marxist writer John Berger—perhaps best known for the documentary-turned-book, Ways of Seeing
(1972), and for, in the same year, winning (for his novel G.
) and then immediately excoriating the Booker Prize—merits serious attention for his career as a whole. With sophistication and passion to match his subject, Sperling unfolds a chronological and thematic assessment of Berger (1927–2017) that follows him from his early years as an art student and would-be painter in London, through his tenure as an ambitious art critic and cultural warrior for the New Statesman
, to his fruitful and influential life as a self-exiled Continental writer and thinker. Berger’s experiments in form track his political commitments and his engagement with the evolving cultural politics of the left. Sperling does not shy away from his subject’s blind spots or contradictions, including with respect to gender politics, but he shows that Berger’s critical and moral legacy remains vital. This study is a lively and astute contribution to the writing on Berger, as well as to scholarship on the last 50 years of the cultural left in general. (Nov.)