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The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning

Maggie Nelson

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


“A vibrant and engaged work from a writer and thinker who is worthy of our attention.”—Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
Maggie Nelson has established herself as one of our foremost cultural critics in this landmark work about representations of violence in art.

“An important and frequently surprising book . . . could be read as the foundation for a post-avant-garde aesthetics. ?. . . Nelson, who is also a poet, is such a graceful writer that ?I . . . just sat back and enjoyed the show.”—Laura Kipnis, New York Times Book Review, front-page review

“[Nelson’s] critiques of individual artists are delightfully fierce without being mean spirited. . . . Fascinating and bracingly intelligent. . . . The Art of Cruelty’s prose is often gorgeous.”—Troy Jollimore, Boston Globe

“A lean-forward experience, and in its most transcendent moments, reading it can feel like having the best conversation of your life.”—Rachel Syme, NPR Books

“I hope that critics, and aspiring critics, and those who are interested in the relationship between art and ethics, read [The Art of Cruelty].”—Susie Linfield, New Republic/The Book

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 11, 2011 – The gory, brutal images that swamp modern culture are stupefying and dehumanizing —or maybe not, argues this richly ambivalent study. Poet Nelson (Bluets) surveys cruel art, lowbrow and high, flitting among Hollywood torture-porn and sadistic reality shows, avant-garde films and performance pieces, poetry and literary fiction, and photographs of abused Abu Ghraib prisoners. She repeatedly circles back to a few cruelty auteurs like the painter Francis Bacon and the poet Sylvia Plath. This panorama provokes strong reactions in her, but no dogmas. Nelson rejects the modernist claim that brutality in art provokes cathartic reactions that shock us out of alienation and into social justice, but rejects also the notion that cruel art makes people cruel; she wearies of the entertainment industry's cynical assaults on taste and sensibility—"‘neither I nor the world will be a better place if I ingest a particular cruelty'"—while celebrating provocations that she believes have an undeniable artistic power. Nelson's erudition and wide fluency in artistic and philosophical traditions yield many subtle, insightful readings (her meditation on "brutal honesty" is especially good). But her view of her lurid subject is sometimes too nuanced and unsatisfying.
The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Art & Architecture
  • Published: Jul 11, 2011
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
  • Seller: W. W. Norton
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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