Saturday, May 26, 2012

Portraits in Fiction - A.S Byatt

I've had this little book for a long time now, it was a present from a friend the best part of a decade ago and has sat unread on various shelves ever since until I came across it looking for something else a couple of days ago and suddenly it looked very tempting.

'Portraits in Fiction' is based on the Heywood Hill lecture given at the National Portrait Gallery in 2000 - it's been years since I last read a lecture and there was something a little nostalgic about it, as well as a disquieting feeling that now a lot of it's just slightly beyond my reach. I think when I was studying History of Art I would have been picking holes in Byatt's arguments - or trying to anyway but at this point I'm simply excepting everything she says. The great thing about Byatt is that she's always a challenge.

'Portraits in Fiction' is an exploration of the difference between portraits in paint and portraits made with words - the latter of course leaves rather more to the imagination. It's a book that's full of ideas about time, life, death, and sex as they're captured on canvas and by words. In short full of ideas which should add another layer to future reading and as such more than worth the few hours spent reading it, as was the sense of a mental work out. 

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