The Shape of a Pocket
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The Shape of a Pocket

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  369 ratings  ·  22 reviews
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, Paleolithic cave painters, a Romanian peasant, ancient Egyptians, an expert in the...more
Paperback, 276 pages
Published March 11th 2003 by Vintage (first published July 23rd 2001)
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Caris
Nov 12, 2009 Caris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Caris by: Gabrielle
Shelves: 2009
When I started reading this book, I didn’t expect to think about Richard Dawkins. It’s Berger’s fault. About midway through the book, there's an essay on a portrait of an unknown man by Gericault. Commenting on the painting, Berger states that “[c:]ompassion has no place in the natural order of the world, which operates on the basis of necessity.”

When I was in college, I wrote a paper about the role of altruism in natural selection. Richard Dawkins is the champion of the idea of the “selfish gen...more
Laurie
This is a wonderful little book that needs to be read all the way through to the very odd and beautiful end. It's about dogs, photography, Zapatistas, Michelangelo, prisons, cave paintings, faces, and flesh -- and all the topics that reside between those markers.
Kirsten
I love my John Berger, even if he's a funny mix of progressive thinking and old fashionedness and romanticizing. In this collection, the pieces are primarily about art, and I find them evocative.

From "Opening a Gate": "Our customary visible order is not the only one: it coexists with other orders. Stories of fairies, sprites, ogres were a human attempt to come to terms with this coexistence. Hunters are continually aware of it and so can read signs we do not see. Children feel it intuitively, be...more
Greta
For lyrical ease of reading this book gets four stars. For the subject matter, two. (Having said that, there were several chapters about specific artists which were brilliant.) I like John Berger but I'm not sure why I like this book. Maybe it's because the reading of it was like lounging in a hammock for a couple of hours pondering the shape of the clouds overhead. One comes away from such an experience feeling refreshed and relaxed, but none the wiser.
surfurbian
My friend Val got me this as a gift. It took me a while to get around to reading it. The "pocket" is a pocket of resistance against the predominant forces in one's culture. Enjoyed the read.
Philippe
"I could call this the history of my family as the history of our characteristic illness. I could also call it the history of an illness as the history of one family", says Michael Ignatieff at the outset of his novel Scar Tissue. Although the author has built himself a reputation as a scholarly historian, biographer and culture chronicler, this book is by no means a vapid academic exercise. To the contrary, in barely 200 pages the author paints a very personal and infernal journey to the extrem...more
Sheila
"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed"...

I'm unfamiliar with John Berger, and REALLY unfamiliar with art (history, criticism) in general. And sometimes I need things simple and obvious. So maybe it's because of my own shortcomings that I only give this book two stars.

It wasn't...more
Mita
Che emozione questo libro!
Se ami l'arte e in particolare la pittura, se sei cresciuta con un padre che dipingeva in una casa piena di libri d'arte. Se ogni tuo viaggio, ogni tua gita insieme ai tuoi figli è stata sempre finalizzata alla visita di mostre o musei, fino al punto che tua figlia ha finito per laurearsi in Beni Culturali, non puoi non goderti fino allo spasimo queste letture.
Berger ti apre gli occhi e da significato e storia alle emozioni che hai provato davanti ad ogni quadro che ha...more
Brynn
"Painting is, first, an affirmation of the visible which surrounds us and which continually appears and disappears. Without the disappearing, there would perhaps be no impulse to paint, for then the visible itself would possess the surety (the permanence) which painting strives to find. More directly than any other art, painting is an affirmation of the existent, of the physical world into which mankind has been thrown." (14)

"What any true painting touches is an absence - an absence of which, wi...more
Margaret
Classified as Art History/ Literary Essays, John Berger's The Shape of a Pocket is deceptive. Smooth prose makes it easy to read and variety of subject holds our attention, but the ideas are complex and merit at least a
second read. Berger speaks of the artist as a receiver, one
who goes beyond what he sees. As illustrations of this quality, he refers to the cave paintings in the Chuvet Cave
in the French Ardeche, the Fayum portraits( Egyptian mummy
paintings), Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo among othe...more
John O'shea
Sep 11, 2008 John O'shea rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Anyone who likes to read and think
This is about my favorite author. I do not agree with all of his ideas. He is an old communist, for instance. I have no opinion on Palestine/Israel. Too many people have those already. But the important thing about this book is the careful and beautiful way he treats art, artists, and humans in general.

To say he is thought-provoking is a big undersatement. He thinks differently than most of us, and is clear as a writer. He is known as The art critic, but I don't really read about art much, and I...more
Dianne Oliver
Way out of my box, there were some essays I did not care to read, but there was some interesting thought...
"What is a likeness? When a person dies, they leave behind, for those who knew them, and emptiness, a space: the space has contours and is different for each person mourned. This space with its contours is the person's likeness and is what the artist searches for when making a living portrait. A likeness is something left behind invisibly."
I enjoyed the explanation of Degas and his art....more
Ffiamma
john berger scrive di pittura e pittori, di arte, di libertà. racconta con umanità e compassione della sacca di resistenza che "si forma quando due o più persone si trovano d'accordo fra loro. la resistenza si esercita contro la disumanità del nuovo ordine mondiale". i miei saggi preferiti, in ordine sparso: brancusi, frida kahlo, i ritratti di fayum, un letto, disegno, un uomo dai capelli arruffati. scrittura simile a una carezza.
Wilma Rebstock
I agree with what I understand of this book, but the truth is it is way over my head. I did fairly well with the impressionists and Rembrandt, but overall I got more out of the summary than I was able to understand on my own. As I read I felt like I was in a college course where I was woefully unprepared: I knew I was hearing something important but I wasn't able to appreciate it for what it was.
Blair
I'm sure I'll say this again somewhere in my reviews, but read any John Berger you can. He's fantastic. (Seminal work: Ways Of Seeing)
NOTE- This collections is amazing. If you don't want to read Ways Of Seeing, read this. Compendium-esque.
Jeffrey
berger writes with a lush lyric voice that is exciting, challenging, provocative and always deeply satisfying - he's fresh and political and never lets his readers forget that art makes a difference
Daniel
Smart, emotional art crit, plus letters exchanged with the Zapatistas' Commandante Marcos. The pocket in the title is a pocket of resistance; the book a way to maintain hope and fight back.
Sandy
I just happened on to this book at the library, I picked it up because of it's size and title.
This was my 1st introduction to John Burger. I loved it~
Sarah
I had to read this for college and I thought that it was interesting. It is kind of an analitical way to look at art and what brings about art in the world.
Xavier
A literary equivalent to Tarkovsky's, The Sacrifice.
katie
art criticism without the cynical dribble.
Matt
essential reading
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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.
More about John Berger...
Ways of Seeing About Looking To the Wedding G. And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

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“What any true painting touches is an absence - an absence of which without the painting, we might be unaware. And that would be our loss.” 20 likes
“The impulse to paint comes neither from observation nor from the soul (which is probably blind) but from an encounter: the encounter between painter and model: even if the model is a mountain or a shelf of empty medicine bottles.” 9 likes
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