Letter: Mailer goes after the bigger picture

Jeremy Stiles
Sunday 23 October 2011 00:23

Having read Norman Mailer's book on Picasso, Marc Jordan has preferred, it seems, not to review it ("Cubism with the Lights Out", Review, 24 November).

His image of a publishing executive sitting in New York or Boston deciding on the combination of Mailer and Picasso as a money-spinner is not convincing when you recall that Mailer was considering a study of Picasso in the 1960s. In Cannibals and Christians (1966), with Cubism as a starting point, Mailer speculates on the relationship between shape and form and on the influence of the artist's unconscious.

Jordan believes that Mailer's book is inferior to the books of John Richardson, but does not tell us how it is inferior. Mailer has much to say about the psychology of the artist in general, on the difference between concepts and forms, on the possible inspiration for Picasso's "split heads" and on visual metaphor. He puts foward theories, while acknowledging that Picasso "detested theory".

The visual artist has every right to detest theory, but a critic should be able to theorise. A book reviewer should review the book at hand.

Jeremy Stiles

London SW17

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