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The Writer's Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers Hardcover – September 11, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this hefty volume, novelist Friedman takes a look at the artwork of more than 200 authors who found other avenues for expression in drawing, painting or sculpting. Aside from the familiar illustrations of Edward Gorey, Beatrix Potter and (to a lesser extent) Kurt Vonnegut, Friedman also unearths work from literary heavyweights past and present, including the Bronte sisters, Herman Hesse, Rudyard Kipling, Colleen McCullough, Vladamir Nabokov, John Updike and Jonathan Lethem. Each entry offers a short biography and passages from journals, letters or interviews illuminating the author's reasons for picking up pen or paint; according to Elizabeth Bishop, for instance, writers make a "frequent complaint that painting is more fun than writing." Examples of authors' art, one or two from each subject, are handsomely reproduced in vivid color alongside the text. Friedman also covers a long list of writers whose artworks couldn't be located or secured for publication, and essays by William H. Gass and Updike provide perspective. Sure to cover at least a few of any given lit fan's favorites, Friedman's volume provides hours of fascinating browsing, and makes a perfect coffee table book for the avid reader.
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Review

"Imagine a favorite work of literature. Now imagine it unpinned from words. What is left? Anything?...Could a sonnet be a ballet? Could a novel find life as a melody, or a collage?...This is Friedman's essential conceit, and it is a subversive jewel of an idea, sparkling audaciously on every page of this well-designed book...Each writer-artist is allotted a two-page spread with a brief, eclectic biography and one or more reproductions of artwork. Among the included are the highly accomplished...the highly recognizable...the unexpected...[and a few] unabashed amateurs...Friedman's decision to incorporate statements from the writers themselves `wherever possible' enriches the book, which is laden with first-person reflection...this book celebrates what may be the ultimate artistic calling." -- New York Times Book Review, December 2, 2007

(Starred Review) "...In a grand feat of research and interpretation, novelist Friedman has gathered artworks ranging from notebook doodles to refined paintings by more than 200 diverse writers. Luscious reproductions are matched with pithy biographies...this bountiful volume concludes with a superb and defining essay by William Gass and reflections by John Updike, who has the last word on writers who make art: 'The impulse is one.'" -- Booklist
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Mid-List Press (September 11, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0922811768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0922811762
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 1.5 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #916,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By T.S. Fischer on December 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I just got this book, and it is one of the best literary compendia I have ever seen or read. I love learning more about some of my favorite writers and was surprised at how talented some were - some I never knew painted - and it was strange to see how some of the art would have been what you expect, and some wasn't. For example I am a huge Dostoyevsky fan and his drawings looked a little ragged and strange and dark like his characters. I didn't know he drew in the margins of his manuscripts. At over 400 pages I will probably spend the next 10 years taking this book down from the shelf to read the quick bio and look again at the art of a writer who comes up in conversation around our house or who I am reading...Really beautiful and inspiring book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By P. Hughes on December 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Writer's Brush is a remarkable achievement. It's a unique work that is simultaneously a very interesting read and a valuable resource. The collection of artwork is a window into the oft unknown alternate lives of many of our best known writers. It is fascinating to see the artwork of Joseph Conrad, Winston Churchill, Emily Bronte and Kurt Vonnegut, Kipling, Ibsen and Ionesco... who knew that their talents transcended the page to the canvas. I am also enjoying learning about authors that I didn't recognize and then seeking our their writings. Bravo.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Shollenberger on January 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is truly a treasure! Every page unveils little known talents and secrets of literary artists whose talents as painters, sculptors, and so on are every bit as fascinating as their written work. What is even more special is that the artists include such an immense variety of men and women from various periods of history. It is not a book to be read page-by-page, but like the greatest culinary delights from truffles to the purest chocolates, it needs to be savored in small, rich, fulfilling portions. I expect to see The Writer's Brush published in other languages, if that, indeed, has not already begun.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. BROWN on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had seen a brief review of the book on t.v. prior to the holidays & ordered it for a friend of mine who is an avid reader & also dabbles in painting. He positively LOVED it, and this is a man who is not easy to please.....He said the book was insightful & gave glimpses into the other artistic side of writers....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kay Heise on January 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is the bargain of the year. Wonderful full-color plates and extremely interesting biographies of the writer/artists.
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Format: Hardcover
Many people know that William Blake was as gifted an artist as he was a writer, merging his poetry and painting into a single visionary expression. And it has been well documented that Winston Churchill, a fine writer, was also an accomplished painter. But it may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, that James whitcomb Riley hired Booth Tarkington to illustrate the cover of one of his books. Riley was also a visual artist.

These fascinating facts, as well as over 400 color plates of art work by by many writers who were also visual artists and/or sculptors are included in the "Writer's Brush" written and complied by Donald Friedman. On the opposite page of the art reproductions there is a brief historical and often quirky critical passage about each writer/artist with surprising insights from 20 years of research and interviews Friedman conducted with many of those still living.

The writer/artists are listed in the book in alphabetical order -- from Cathy Acker to william Butler Yeats. Obviously the range of artistic talent and technical virtuosity
varies significantly. Many of the works of art seem to reflect the temperament and subject matter of the artisit's written work, such as a painting of writhing nude bodies by D.H. Lawrence. But that is not always the case. A sketch of can-can dancers by Joseph Conrad couldn't be farther from the mood of "The Heart of Darkness." What a treat.
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