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Bento's Sketchbook Hardcover – November 8, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Warmly engaging, philosophical, unpredictable, and, at times, almost unbearably moving… Berger’s signature cultural fluency, compassion, and profound sense of beauty and justice coalesce exquisitely in this sketchbook.” –Booklist

“With his clear, sinuous prose, he gives an account of how the contours of reality ‘harass’ the act of drawing…the book coheres because Berger’s is a humane and uniquely confiding voice, and this voice is coextensive with his skill as a draftsman. The two attributes act in concert with Spinoza’s enigmatic philosophical propositions. All three constitute a singular act of witness.”—The New York Times Book Review

Bento’s Sketchbook is delightful and yet reaches a depth of thought somewhat surprising in a book of its size—with pictures, nonetheless. If you are an artist, read this. If you have ever wondered what it’s like to see through the eyes of an artist or what it’s like to think like an artist, read this. If you want an escape, if you want to learn, if you want to be entertained, read this. But most of all, if you want to be inspired—read this.” –Everyday eBook

"Someone familiar with John Berger as a writer, might have guessed the Spinozian bent of his humanity. Someone familiar with John Berger the art critic certainly knows of his visual sensibility. What a feast it is, then, to discover these two strands of Berger's astonishing body of work united in this treasure of a book."
—Antonio Damasio, author of Self Comes to Mind

“A deceptively brief volume offers profound meditations on art, the creative process and so much more… Whether he’s extending an analogy that compares making a drawing to riding a motorbike or discusses storytelling in a manner that could apply just as well to drawing, he makes such interaction and interconnection seem central to the human condition. Berger’s readers will see with fresh eyes.”
Kirkus, starred review

Bento’s Sketchbook is a literary work that epitomizes the wonderful world of imagination and play, and a reminder of how we can truly see—if only we can slow down…Highly recommended.” –New York Journal of Books

“Berger steers away from direct answers to the mystery of the artistic impulse or the many other questions he poses in this short book. But the value of this impressionistic work lies less in those answers than it does in exposing us to new ways of encountering the world.” –Shelf Awareness

“An uplifting rumination.” –New York Times Style Magazine 
 
Bento’s Sketchbook is an example of categories more than just transcended: trampled, in fact… his own jottings, recollections, and encounters, though occasionally knotty, display a freshness sharpened by passages of haiku-like surprise… Berger can still lift us to indignation and enchantment.” –The Boston Globe
 
“If any single quality most characterizes Berger, it is presence. John Berger seems to live every moment, his earthy engagement with the world reflected in his sketching technique. He draws with black ink, wash and spit, using his finger rather than a brush…Bento’s Sketchbook  is not a book to peruse while waiting for a document to download on your computer. It should be read like poetry.” –The Washington Independent Review of Books

“His prose, with its easy and fluid lyricism, begs to be read, poured over, and soaked in. He shrugs off the authority he could quite easily claim (a stature writers of lesser knowledge are often unable to resist coveting) and writes with humble compassion. His thoughts glide so easily from one topic to the next, his tone of urgency never bordering on lecture, that it seems only natural to wonder: why aren’t more writers trying to write like this?... this is decidedly Berger — eyes always open, political fire forever raging. His words, so grounded in history and humanitarianism, begin to feel timeless, as if their relevance were set in stone.” –Idiom Magazine

“Berger offers unflinching insights into the predicaments of our time and how we might face them…Unlike many other political thinkers, Berger has remained true in his old age to the ideals of his youth. What has sustained his optimism, his idealism, his ability to persevere? Perhaps it is just such an outlook. It does not promise victory, but it is resistant to defeat. It is skeptical, but remains steadfast. It is a philosophy of hope, tempered by experience, and without illusion.” –The Forward

About the Author

John Berger's many books include Ways of Seeing, the fiction trilogy Into Their Labours, the Booker Prize–winning novel G., and To the Wedding.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (November 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307379957
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307379955
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Persing on December 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
John Berger's years of writing about art and life are well known. As he has aged his books have become more free, allowing him to follow his train of thought wherever it leads - to love, politics, and questions he himself is unsure how to answer. Bento's sketchbook is drawn from Berger's own experiences, especially those connected with drawing, and the philosophy of Baruch (Bento) Spinoza. Spinoza stood in opposition to the Cartesian view that separated the logical from the spiritual and, unsurpprisingly, is an excellent fit to Berger's own outlook. This book is well illustrated with Berger's own drawings (Spinoza's do not appear to have survived) and is laden with thoughts fully- or half-formed, just waiting to be taken up by the reader. Highly recommended.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By wrtiers haven on December 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love everything this man writes, and this latest book, just out November 8, 2011, brings together all the many threads of his life, his art, his political philosophy, and his great great heart. Bento's Sketchbook (subtitled How Does the Impulse to Draw Something Begin?) contains ink-and-spit drawings, quotations from Spinoza (the Bento of the title), and stories of real people: everywhere John Berger's eye touches the Earth. I have bought copies for everyone I love: it's the kind of book you can open anywhere, read one story, put it down in order to assimilate the deeper and deeper layers of awareness Berger brings into focus, and know you will want to re-read many times. Each page contains perceptions that make me stop and breathe in the world around me with more empathy, more appreciation, more sorrow and more hope of redemption.
If you don't know John Berger's work, this is a wonderful place to begin. If you do, you will not want to miss this gift from a man in his 80s who has lived his life with such passion and integrity.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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Berger's characteristic tenderness and close scrutiny of humanity 'sketched' in the vignettes and drawings inspired by his personal life, in a synthesis with the philosophical patience and apercus from Spinoza ; both enlarge the mind with their unquestionable integrity of beliefs and acts towards their countrymen. I am not an artist but for me, a retired high school teacher, the book is unforgettable.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Berger is an original art thinker but this experiment (yes, experiment!) to blend philosophy with personal anecdotes/casual sketches simply does not work. Yuk! I was yawning most of the way and could not even finish this small book. My apologies to Berger but I ended up binning it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By t ellerbrock on November 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great read, especially if you're interested in art and it's processes. I love the collection of lesser known pieces.
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