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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting in patches, July 8, 2008
This review is from: Vermeer in Bosnia: Selected Writings (Paperback)
The essays in this collection were mostly magazine pieces published in the New Yorker or the Atlantic Monthly in the 1980s and 1990s. As such, the question must be asked: do they stand the test of time? Are they worth re-reading all these years later?
Sometimes they are. The first essay on the author's musings about Vermeer and his world juxtaposed against his coverage of the War Crimes Tribunal judging the atrocities in Bosnia is genuinely insightful. Weschler notes that Vermeer's world was as violent, or even more so, as the former Yugoslavia during its bloodletting. His art is an attempt to impose order on this brutal world and to uphold the dignity and importance of the individual.
Another essay about a scene in Shakespeare's Henry V which is usually cut from performance, in which the king orders the mass slaughter of French prisoners after the Battle of Agincourt is likewise compared to the massacre at Srenbrenica. It's a valuable insight.
However other essays seemed to me to have lost their relevance and sharpness. That should be no surprise after 15 or 20 years. Magazine writing is not intended for the ages. It often belongs to the time in which it was written. Thus an essay about Jerzy Urban, who was the spokesman for Solidarity in Poland during the 1981 crackdown and later reinvented himself as a much-raking editor, seemed far removed from the Poland of today. Additionally, though he provides (very) brief updates for some of his stories, Weschler doesn't do so in this case.
A piece about Roman Polanski seemed long and rather similar to other articles I'd read about the dramatic life and work of this director.
It takes a considerable ego to believe one's journalism is worth preserving for posterity between the covers of a hard-backed book. (I'd certainly never make that claim for myself).
These articles are very well-written and can be very interesting in places. But if it came to a choice between reading this week's New Yorker and this book, I'd take the current issue.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 9, 2008 11:27:19 AM PDT
Fascinating material. I'm glad you brought this to our attention.
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