Reviews for Falling Upwards : Essays in Defense of the Imagination


Book News Reviews
Cultural critic and essayist Siegel has published pieces in such prominent American periodicals as Harper's, The New Republic (where he is a senior editor), Time, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Here he collects 21 of those essays commenting on such diverse cultural products as the Harry Potter books, the plays of Anton Chekhov, the television shows The Sopranos and Sex and the City, Stanley Kubrick's film Eyes Wide Shut, and a biography of Saul Bellow. Throughout the essays he celebrates those works with imagination, those that display artistic authenticity and integrity, and denigrates those that are the products of an increasingly commercialized culture. His motto as a cultural critic is to "do unto art as what you would have art do unto you." Annotation ©2007 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews
Is the increasingly permeable border between art and life leading to a world in which the arts can no longer create meaningful original experiences? Celebrated critic Lee Siegel tackles this question and others in a collection of essays that restore creativity and joie de vivre to the art of criticism. Sigel claims that in an age of irony, commodification and self-interest, "the work of art itself has come under suspicion," making it "harder and harder to make a work of art that does not conform to ... trivializing media." As a result, contemporary artists "have given up on the idea of art as an autonomous end" and contemporary criticism is reduced to "a cautious blandness." As a corrective, Siegel's witty and piercing gaze meanders from J.K. Rowling to D.H. Lawrence, from Stanley Kubrick to Kevin Spacey, reinvigorating both over- (Harry Potter) and under-analyzed (Ilya Repin) topics with rare élan. Even in the heavily-tread territory of popular culture, Siegel uncovers fertile ground for new insight, criticizing the critics on their views of Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and proposing a new method of understanding the popularity of Rowling's "children's" books. Siegel's focus ranges so far afield that few readers will be grabbed by every topic, but the strength of his writing will draw readers into such obscure subjects as Soviet social realist painting and Dante's career in Florentine politics. After all, the critic must operate not as a glorified reviewer, says Siegel, but as a true writer who is "witty, and course, and antic, and subtle." This collection should convince even the most cynical reader that such criticism is still possible. (Sept. 30)

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