Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

"and our faces, my heart, brief as photos" by John Berger (Bloomsbury, 2005)

A mixture of essay, anecdote with a message and poetry, all rather variable in quality. He sets up false binaries (poetry/prose, male/female) in order to concoct aphorisms, mixing falsifiable statements with lyrical poetry. Sections like To measure modern astronomic distances, one uses as a unit that distance which light will travel in a year ... the cyclic and local unit ... The calculation returns from the astronomic to the local, like a prodigal son (p.37) are silly. The section on Caravaggio is better, but it has little to do with the rest of the book. I like some of the poetry.


  • If I lay on my side I saw a star reflected in the mirror and the glow-worm beneath on the chest of drawers. The only difference was that the light of the glow-worm was slightly greener, more glacial, further away (p.8)
  • The number of those chased from the land during the clearances enters the inconsolable algebra of the geese (p.43)
  • At dusk the harnessed dogs fear/ there is no end to the forest./ And each night in the snow/ we calm them/ with our surprising laughter (p.49)
  • at home, one was nearest to the gods in the sky and to the dead in the underworld (p56)
  • to emigrate is always to dismantle the center of the world (p.57)
  • The creation of male and female constituted a separation ... The sexual instinct was the energy of attraction ... The hope of completion developed simultaneously with the founding of the home (p.66)
  • the past grows gradually around one, like a placenta for dying (p.78)


  • In reality we are always between two times: that of the body and that of consciousness. Hence the distinction made in all other cultures between body and soul (p.10)
  • History since the French Revolution has changed its role. Once it was the guardian of the past: ... It no longer speaks of the changeless but, rather, of the laws of change (p.12)
  • Tony is no longer within the nexus of time as lived by those who, until recently, were his contemporaries. He is on the circumference of that nexus ... as are diamonds and amoebas (p.15)
  • The pulse of the dead
        as interminably
    constant as the silence
    which pockets the thrush


  • Poems, even when narrative, do not resemble stories. All stories are about battles, of one kind or another, which end in victory and defeat ... Poems, regardless of any outcome, cross the battlefields, tending the wounded ... They bring a kind of peace (p.21)
  • In all poetry words are a presence before they are a means of communication (p.22)
  • Apart from reassembling by metaphor, poetry reunites by its reach (p.97)


  • the moment of a painting, unlike a moment photographed, never existed as such (p.25)
  • All finished paintings .. are now prophecies, received from the past, about what the spectator is seeing (p.27)
  • The language of pictorial art, because it is static, is the language of such timelessness. Yet what it speaks about - unlike geometry - is the sensuous, the particular (p.28)

Other reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment