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Customer Review

on 22 June 2013
The value of this book can only be expressed through its own words.
Let one example stand for many:

'Light changes when we are sketching. During one sitting we may have many varying effects. How often the sun starts out bright and the sketch is under way. We try to state the effect. Then the sun goes under and stays under. The only thing to do is to set the sketch aside, for if we continue it will not have the same aspect, nor will it be true to the fundamental approach to values. Start a new one, smaller if the time is short, and wait for another sunny day for the other.'

As you can see, within the space of only six sentences this author manages to summarise the whole gamut of our fallen human condition. Moving, at once sagaciously and gracefully, from the daunting curtain-raiser that could come right out of Ecclesiastes ('Light changes fast when we are sketching' - indeed, a crisper account of all life's transience and all the actions of man being inherently 'hevel' has not been offered in all the twenty-two centuries that have whizzed by since the time of that spiritual father of all modern men), through examinations of uncertainty and contingency of all our perception ('During one sitting we may have many varying effects'), the mirages and illusions that we are so prone to following down rabbit holes ('The sun starts out bright and the sketch is under way'), the futile endeavors that we waste the majority of our lives on ('We try to state the effect'), the bleak or even outright mournful outcomes of all our head trips ('Then the sun goes under and stays under'), the bleak surrogates and compromises that we are so often forced to accept ('The only thing to do is to set the sketch aside... Start a new one, smaller if the time is short'), to the vicious circles of illusions and false hopes that we are forever condemned to in our endless self-deceptions and confabulations ('... and wait for another sunny day for the other.').

I would strongly urge the publisher to consider liberating this and other such gems that the book can boast of from the dead weight of the work's original, and by now totally outdated, purpose (to instruct budding illustrators), dropping out all the illustrations (except, perhaps, for the nudes - they may be left as subtle reminders of the barren vanities of the flesh), and printing it in a format more suitable to the work's true nature, that is to say as a treatise of existentialist philosophy and a powerful literary account of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless and absurd world.

And, just in case you are still not convinced that everyone interested in the pursuit of wisdom should regard this as urgent reading, I offer you another example:

'So all things have a value between black and white. All things have a value according to light and shadow. All things separate from one another within our field of vision because of values. So we can begin with these value shapes, stated as flatly and simply as possible, and practically devoid of modeling and surface detail.'

Where else have you seen theistic cosmogony, anthropology, and moral philosophy expressed with such prudence and economy, and yet such unfathomable depth?
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4.9 out of 5 stars