36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A Thing Of Beauty,
This review is from: Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy (Paperback)
Mark Doty begins this book by describing a 350 year old Dutch painting "Still Life with Oysters and Lemon" that he has fallen in love with at the Metropolitan Museum. He then meanders to memories of his "Mamaw" from long ago in East Tennessee-- surely only Southerners call grandparents by that name-- to a poem by Cavafy, to buying an old Italianate Victorian House in Vermont with his partner who later died of AIDS. Along the way, Mr. Doty muses on the subject of balance: the desire to be in a relationship and the need to be free, the balance of order versus clutter, of staying rooted in one place and the need to travel-- and the joy of collecting simple, everyday imperfect things picked up in flea markets rather than perfect expensive objects.
There are so many good things to say about this little 70 page gem that one hardly knows where to begin. Too often I read a work of nonfiction and wish it had remained a short magazine article. That is not so with this book. I wanted it to go on and on. Whether or not the author is correct in his analysis of still life painting, he is completely convincing. Of course, his language is always both concise and beautiful and never gets in the way of what he is saying. Near the end of the book Mr. Doty says "What makes a poem a poem, finally, is that it is unparaphrasable. . . I may try to explain it or represent it in other terms, but then some element of its life will always be missing. It is the same with painting." Such a statement perfectly describes this little masterpiece.