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Roof Life Hardcover – August 20, 2013

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Ostensibly a collection of essays reflecting on what it means to spend a lifetime looking at art, thinking in museums, and writing through solitude, doubt, and disquiet, Roof Life has little to say about the main areas of Alpers’s expertise, namely seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish painting. It is not a book about art history. It is not criticism. It is not even really a book about art—except in the sense that, chapter by chapter, Alpers explores the various and unexpected ways in which art functions as a social bond and the substance of intense friendship. She applies the tools of an art historian to elements in a landscape (such as the New York City skyline), to the documents tracing the outlines of a life (that of her Russian grandfather), and to an inventory of possessions (her own) to compose a kind of self-portrait. —Kaelen Wilson-Goldie


“Alpers’s latest book of essays is a series of discrete, eloquent meditations on the undervalued act of looking (“That sense of life seen at a distance, and my pleasure in it”) that don’t fall easily into the categories of art history, criticism, or memoir. What connects her stirring personal narratives is this elastic theme of distance: distance as a state of mind (one that is “sharpened by confronting things that are unfamiliar”) and distance as a condition of life . . . resonant, highly original writing.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“Resonant, elusive, and enlightening . . . With photographs, [Alpers] reminds us, in a passage that gets at the heart of her strange and stimulating book (and her work as an art historian), place matters most: “not I was there, but there was where I was.” It’s a principle worth including in the psychology—and philosophy—of participants and observers.”—Psychology Today
(Psychology Today)

“Alpers writes against the memoir form, creating a meditative self-portrait that pulls in family, literature, geograohy and a lifetime of looking at art. She aims for a kind of omniscience – to fix our attention and focus our responses, as we do when taking in landscapes from a great height. ‘The immediacy of distance’ is her goal.”—New Statesman
(New Statesman 2013-08-23)

“In a world ‘awash in imagery’, Roof Life celebrates the joys and responsibilities of careful looking. . .Alpers has the best of critical gifts. She makes you feel you are standing by her in that West Village loft seeing what she sees, whether the city out of her windows or the art on her walls.”—Edmund Fawcett, The Royal Academy Magazine
(Edmund Fawcett RA Magazine 2013-12-01)

“Alpers’s latest and most unusual book . . . turns the condition and circumstances of her view into a philosophy of seeing and being in the world . . . Much of the material here is deeply personal. We read harrowing letters of Alpers’s forebears as the recall their flight from the 1905 pogroms in Odessa. We follow her as she inherits, appraises, and sells a small Rothko, only regarding it as a remarkable work of art when it is housed in storage. We accompany her to seasonal farmers’ markets and back to her kitchen and then into her hallway, late at night, where she catches sight of a shadow cast by her naked body on the door. Yet Roof Life is relentlessly anti-memoir, and formidable in its refusal of the confessional mode.”—Bookforum

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (August 20, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300182759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300182750
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,357,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was so excited to open this book. In the past, I was never able to read any of Dr. Alpers' art history books, but Roof Life is a delightful change of pace. It is a much more personal book, in which the author also manages to make many revealing points about observation and observing. If you live in a city -- any city -- the descriptions of life viewed across rooftops will have a familiar ring. And then Dr. Alpers adds her own unique way of seeing the world, bringing the reader with her.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dissapointing. Conceptually interesting but needed a good editor.
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