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Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to Be Understood
Playing to the Gallery: Helping Contemporary Art in its Struggle to Be Understood
by Grayson Perry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Artistic treat, 30 Dec. 2015
I am an admirer of both Grayson Perry's art and his writing and TV work. This book asks many important questions about art and its meaning for us. Perry analyses such questions as: the difficult subject of 'taste', good or bad art, how do we evaluate art in both monetary and aesthetic terms, and examines the fundamental belief that art is meaningful because it is a vital form of self expression. I especially like the fact that Grayson explores and defends the idea that art is not just an 'add-on' in our lives, but something that can be central to and enhance our existence. He both elevates art yet equally pricks the bubble of pretentiousness that often surrounds art. More poignantly perhaps, he is insightful on how he wishes to protect his own personal feelings about the beauty and decorative elements of art from his inner cynic. Perry includes some fascinating examples from art experiments and tricks used by artists to assess and scrutinise the integrity and value of their own artworks and art itself. He challenges the jaded idea of artist as layabout with the view of the hard graft that goes into producing high quality art. The most revealing, and perhaps touching, chapter is the final one which focuses on Perry's personal artistic development and he employs psychological insight with wit to explore the roots of artistic endeavour. The book is sprinkled with Grayson's usual witty and perceptive drawings which nail the points he is making and add visual spice to the experience. Overall, the conversational tone works well although there were occasions when I wished he had expanded on points he had made rather than left them dangling in the air. But, although brief in length, this book is an art lover's treat from start to finish.

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
by Philip Larkin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.12

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The world according to Larkin, 23 Oct. 2011
I have not been able to put this book down. I am an admirer of Larkin's work and, having read the Selected Letters, I was intrigued to discover this record of a more intimate side to Larkin's character, as expressed in his letters to Monica Jones, his friend and lover.

Anthony Thwaite has done an amazing job in editing the correspondence down to the 2000 letters contained here. They range from the irritations (on both sides) towards colleagues, L's persistent envy towards Kingsley Amis, whose life was perceived as being the more successful and rounded existence, to the intimate revelations about the ongoing relationship between L and M. The charm in these letters is that they express equally the banality of domestic life (doing the laundry, noisy neighbours and Larkin winds himself up in knots seeking rented accommodation) alongside the creation of significant poems and their sometimes difficult births. Other subjects include Christmas (L's suppressed - and often not suppressed - fury at family duties around this time), his professional commitments, holidays together, noisy neighbours, loneliness, the passing of time and wasting one's life, alcohol and the fear of not being able to write poetry again.

Larkin and Monica never married and Larkin expresses his anguish at his lack of decisiveness on this subject many times to Monica, speaking aloud his doubts about his unsuitability for married life and also his guilt about having ruined her life. Yet one feels that he intermittently offloads this guilt simply to continue as before. However, he also recognises that they are both similar in this respect and are therefore compatible in their inability to be together or their desire to be apart. He presses the point home at times with alarming insensitivity and there are moments when Monica's response is helpfully quoted which illuminates the point in question. On the subject of sex he says: "I never got the hang of sex, anyway. If it were announced that all sex wd cease as from midnight on 31 December, my way of life wouldn't change at all...I don't mean, of course, that I don't like making love with you: that wd be inaccurate..." Monica might have appreciated the wit, had she not been the woman in question.

However, there is also much tenderness, joy, intellectual satisfaction, humour and comfort expressed throughout these letters. There are many points when the reader might feel these people should have been together to offer the succour they seem to need at vulnerable points in their lives. Towards the end of Larkin's life, they did eventually live together and maybe that was the approximation of a married life they might have hoped for.

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