- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: McSweeney's (February 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 193241634X
- ISBN-13: 978-1932416343
- Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,435,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences Hardcover – February, 2006
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Starred Review. From the general mass of heavy-handed, pompous writing about art, Weschler's graceful collection of essays and interviews stands out like a rare bloom. Charming, idiosyncratic and deeply intelligent, the book will likely captivate even readers who usually bypass the art history section of bookstores. The topic at hand is convergence: the visual rhyme between seemingly disparate images, and the way those rhymes stimulate new understanding of the scenes depicted. Take for example, Weschler's talk with photographer Joel Meyerowitz, in which they discuss the similarity between the latter's photo of firemen on a break at ground zero and an anonymous shot of Union soldiers during the Civil War. Looking at the two images, Meyerowitz recalls, "I had the same sense of history repeating itself, people assembled after carnage or destruction or before battle, and they're dispersed in a way that is casual, from fatigue or just..." Elsewhere, Weschler (Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder) examines Polish history through the posters of its Solidarity Movement and compares the doughy physiognomies and political careers of two conservative leaders: Newt Gingrich and Slobodan Milosevic. It's his light touch that allows Weschler to get away with such parallels; he never pushes a point too far. All he does is articulate his own evocative visual and philosophical connections; we can make of them what we will. Color photos. (Feb.)
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Unfortunately I don't share the same level of enthusiasm for this work as the other reviewers here. While there were times the columnist/blogger/casual-essayist style was entertaining, at many points I found it a bit like listening to someone working hard at making connections because he could, not because they really were all there. If I were speaking with the author at a party, I'm uncertain I would listen to him speak about one of his convergences for very long - not because he lacks education and depth and has some cool ideas - it's just that some of them strain to much to convergence. Is it really convergence when someone forces two things together rather than discovering the intersection?
I guess it felt like naming cloud images. Fun, but not for long, and sometimes no matter how hard you try, the other person can't quite see the pattern you see. But I am only one voice out of many, so take my perspective in stride.
A picture of my 1-year old brother in his stroller, mouth wide open in toothless glee, reaching toward the camera, echoed a photo taken at family gathering 45 years later in which the only things different are the chair in which he sits and his gleaming teeth. His body language, his expression, even his adult-sized outstretched arm are the same as the boy from the stroller.
These sorts of echoes are commonly seen in your standard `grip-and-grin" shots at traditional events such as birthdays and weddings. But in one-off photos like the baby/adult ones of my brother, there's something more at work. Did a buried memory surface when a similar photographic situation arose that caused him to echo his own pose from 45 years before?
That might explain the same person subconsciously reacting to a similarly presented situation, but it fails to explain completely separate scenes, at different times, featuring a random set of people or circumstances that nonetheless are captured in an eerily identical composition to each another by artists not known to one another.
Not all the connections in this book are photographic. Weschler includes geographical, artistic, scientific, and architectural connections, too, in which human behavior could not have influenced the outcome. This is a provocative look at an unusual and inexplicable phenomenon of things that converge between time and place.
Weschler has a distinct knack for seeing in the floating lips of a Man Ray painting or in a photograph of a solitary cloud the backside of a nude Venus but his ruminations are much broader than art history. His agglutinating mind embraces poetry, Einstein, cuneiform tablets, prisons and politics. He skillful links these seemingly disparate subjects with one common element - his human response to them.
The connection of imagery and ideas seems strangely familiar even if one has not previously considered these particular images juxtaposition. It might be human nature to find strange correspondences between things but few have the breadth of knowledge to link such wide-ranging subjects and fewer still would describe them with Weschler's easy elegance. His musings offer delightful possibilities rather than prescriptions and he stops short of any forced conclusions.
Of particular interest are Weschler's his discussion with photographer Joel Meyerowitz, who documented the World Trade Center site, in which he finds the beauty and stylistic echoes of Vermeer and early Civil War photography. Also moving is Weschler's changing response to a photograph of a father and daughter as he and his own daughter reach the relative ages of those in the photograph.
This pleasing volume is bound (with the customary McSweeney's care for design) in black cloth and features color reproductions of the paintings or photographs mentioned in the essays. It is an aesthetic delight to read. The short essays make it an ideal work to pick up and set down and I suspect I will return repeatedly to this unique book.