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Selected Essays

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  189 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
The writing career of John Berger–poet, storyteller, playwright, and essayist–has yielded some of the most original and compelling examinations of art and life of the past half century. In this essential volume, Geoff Dyer has brought together a rich selection of many of Berger’s seminal essays.

Berger’s insights make it impossible to look at a painting, watch a film, or e
Paperback, 608 pages
Published March 11th 2003 by Vintage (first published December 26th 2001)
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David M
Feb 09, 2016 David M rated it really liked it
"Glamour is the happiness of other people's envy" - I came across this definition from Berger years ago. I was about to move from Wisconsin to San Francisco, and tried to always keep it in the back of my mind to help navigate my passage. If this pithy formula were his only accomplishment Berger would still be a great writer in my eyes.

Not quite like any other I know. In the variety of his interests, his moral, political, and spiritual commitments he reminds me a bit of Simone Weil or Walter Benj
Jee Koh
Dec 14, 2013 Jee Koh rated it really liked it
It is astonishing to me how consistent John Berger was in over 30 years of art criticism. His judgment of an artist could become more developed and refined, more elaborated, but the underlying sense of the artist's purpose and value remained the same. This consistency of seeing came from a coherent philosophy of art criticism. As Berger puts it in his "Introduction" to Permanent Red, which is also aptly the introductory essay of this Selected Essays edited by Geoff Dyer, the art critic must firs ...more
Oct 01, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing
Time and time again I find myself moved by Berger's meditations on art. Great art in itself, his writing has the power to reveal the invisible essence of an artist's work--that quality which transforms a painting or a sculpture from just an object into a kind of living being. He has taught me how to be with art, to speak to it and to listen, making meaning together. Artists I've simply ignored like Degas and Hals become transfigured in his writing and I see their work with new eyes. Other favori ...more
Mar 30, 2008 Jude rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who uses the word "art" in a sentence
THE. BEST. WORDS ABOUT ART. ever. a revelation to someone who had been looking at art all her life and didn't know why she loved Modigliani but really not quite ever Renoir.

accessible, elegant and warm. demanding, critical, political.
this is the friend who makes going to the museum an encounter with the history of desire and power, whose love for what art is not only informs you but changes who you are when you are with art.
Oct 10, 2014 Flo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm sorry, but it got a bit bored and aborted my read. A lot of things that were mentioned in the book did not interest me, but I'm sure he will have entertained those who enjoyed the subjects he discussed at length.
M. Sarki
I liked this book enough that I do recommend the reading of it by others, especially those interested and obsessed with painting and painters. Seems that is what Berger is most interested in. But I would have liked the selection better had the essays been more personal. I explain why in my more extensive review found here:
Cynthia Davidson
Sep 25, 2011 Cynthia Davidson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A deep thinker, who turned me on to Caravaggio, whose paintings I had never seen till now.
He's a loner, yet he's loyal. He's a resister, yet he's engaged with life at a deeper level than the 'hit & run' types of today. Living so long in France, he's also gained more insight into his own British culture...
Hope to get into his novels.
Mar 07, 2014 Tobias rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2014
There's a lot here -- some of it more to my taste than others. But the best parts are utterly fantastic, and the progression of the book over decades, from politically-infused art criticism to pastoral thoughts on mortality, amasses its own kind of weight.
Jan 30, 2013 Elisabeth rated it really liked it
a wonderfully succinct yet thorough collection of essays on modern artists. the historical context expertly complements his analysis of varying movements as they relate to each artist. I admire john berger.
May 26, 2008 Jack rated it it was amazing
JB selectively recaps an artist's biography or process in two to three pages then writes a single surprising and mind-quieting insight you've never heard before. And you're glad.
Feb 24, 2011 RUSA CODES rated it it was amazing
This was one of the 2003 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to
Dec 04, 2007 Andy rated it really liked it
Worth it just for the article on shoveling shit out of his compost toilet. I've even argued that this essay encapsulates Berger's entire aesthetic.
Sara Willis
Apr 22, 2008 Sara Willis rated it it was amazing
Buy this book now. Or steal it. Or borrow it. Don't just read it, eat it and let it grow inside you.
Sep 05, 2009 Brigette rated it really liked it
Art and politics -- what a wonderful combo. And nobody writes about it better than John Berger.
May 04, 2007 Meral rated it it was amazing
excellent collection of his best essays. the man can definitely write about art.
R L Swihart
Nov 16, 2014 R L Swihart rated it liked it
Kept my attention. Lots of interesting topics.
Jun 24, 2012 Mirin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This man is wonderful. He changed my life.
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John Peter Berger is an English art critic, novelist, painter and author. His novel G. won the 1972 Booker Prize, and his essay on art criticism Ways of Seeing, written as an accompaniment to a BBC series, is often used as a college text.

Later he was self exiled to continental Europe, living between the french Alps in summer and the suburbs of Paris in winter. Since then, his production has increa
More about John Berger...

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