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Roof Life Hardcover – August 20, 2013
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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 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
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