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The Shape of a Pocket [Paperback]

John Berger
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

19 Aug 2002
John Berger writes: 'The pocket in question is a small pocket of resistance. A pocket is formed when two or more people come together in agreement. The resistance is against the inhumanity of the new world economic order. The people coming together are the reader, me and those the essays are about - Rembrandt, Palaeolithic cave painters, a Romanian peasant, ancient Egyptians, an expert in the loneliness of certain hotel bedrooms, dogs at dusk, a man in a radio station. And unexpectedly, our exchanges strengthen each of us in our conviction that what is happening to the world today is wrong, and that what is often said about it is a lie. I've never written a book with a greater sense of urgency.'

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The Shape of a Pocket + And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos + About Looking
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (19 Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747558108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747558101
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 234,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Berger was born in London in 1926. He is well known for his novels & stories as well as for his works of nonfiction, including several volumes of art criticism. His first novel, "A Painter of Our Time", was published in 1958, & since then his books have included the novel "G.", which won the Booker Prize in 1972. In 1962 he left Britain permanently, & he now lives in a small village in the French Alps.

Product Description


'An epic parable' -- Independent

'An intellect powered by passion, not detached from but deeply engaged with the practical world in which we live' -- The Scotsman

'Berger's conclusions are conveyed with breathtaking originality and poetic precision' -- Sunday Times

'Smells of oil, resin and sweat, not only because they are about painters, but because his writing has a physical reality' -- The Times

'This book is a reminder, and a celebration, of the fact that curious minds can still make a difference' -- Independent on Sunday

From the Publisher

As with his international bestseller WAYS OF SEEING, John Berger observes and articulates questions about art many people don’t know how to ask. This is an important and stimulating compendium about art and the world we live in

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small jewel of a book to keep in your pocket. 16 Jan 2002
By A Customer
A beautiful collection of essays which examine the relationship of art to its audience. Covering a wide range of subjects from Rembrandt to Van Gogh to Frida Kahlo, Berger lays bare the moments of creation and unfolds them into an increasingly poignant set of theories and ideas which explore the position which art and ultimately creativity and free thinking plays in what Berger calls 'the inhumanity of the new world economic order'.
The book is informed and strident but always poetic. The passion which Berger so obviously has for his subjects can not but fail to move. You will find yourself back in your favourite gallery, in front of your favourite painting, smiling to yourself, as soon as you put this book down. Unmissable
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5.0 out of 5 stars Berger is great 1 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love Berger's unique way of looking at the world. I picked up this book at a friend's house and then had to buy it for myself. Good to dip into when you need some intelligent and poetic words.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating... 1 April 2008
By D. Darrow - Published on
David Mamet wrote "Three Uses of a Knife: The Nature and Purpose of Drama." This Book should be called "The shape of a Pocket: The Nature and Purpose of Art." Because they are dialogues, or letters, written to artists who are long gone, these essays have far more weight than a simple analysis of Van Gogh or Yves Klein. I would say that the one problem, if there were to be a problem, would be Berger's emotional investment. Some of the essays get lost in admiration - causing the reader to question why the essay was written in the first place - But overall, this is a riveting collection, and a must for anyone interested in contemporary art and its societal role.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Shape of a Pocket 13 Feb 2012
By Stephanie S - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the most extraordinary books I've ever read. All of Berger's writing is provocative, but this collection is particularly marvelous. I find myself picking this book up to read and reread the essays, over the years. It is a book that fills the heart, engages the mind, and changes one's way of seeing.
18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forget the political pamphleteering 26 Dec 2001
By Philippe Vandenbroeck - Published on
"The Shape of a Pocket" is perfect bedside reading: the essays are short, meditative and carefully crafted. Berger's prose is pure and airy, and only occasionally he trespasses into the contrived and nearly bombastic. That's irritating but understandable as Berger is constantly trying to get to the deeper layers of what it means to make sense of the world through the 'act' of painting. I suppose Berger, on reading these lines, would remark that conceptualising 'to paint' as an 'act' is completely besides the point. Indeed, what he tries to get across is the 'receiving' nature of being-in-the-world as a painter. Being a real artist is a balancing act: it's a state of dynamic equilibrium between 'self' and 'world', between banality and madness. I believe Berger; his writing breathes integrity and wisdom. He has seen things that many mortals only have faint intimations of. That being said I am less sure about the appropriateness of his insights spilling over into the political realm. The complexity of globalisation is, perhaps, of a different nature than the complexity of a brush stroke. I think it shows, in Berger's language: suddenly the delicacy - holographic in its suggestion of colour, depth and texture - evaporates and we are left with the dull taste of cliche and ideology.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars shape of a pocket 21 Sep 2005
By Sanone - Published on
This book is prose, poetry and the most personal, intelegent and non linear art writing I have read so far- I also recommend John Berger's Sense of Sight.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem 1 Feb 2014
By Diane Langley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As usual Berger did not disappoint. I enjoy reading any and all of his writings and esp this one . very relevant to todays world which often seems to be tipped on it's head.
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