Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, July 04, 2016
Through Her Lens Darkly: Diane Arbus’s Life Was as Raw as Her Work
By LYLE REXER - The New York Times
DIANE ARBUS Portrait of a Photographer By Arthur Lubow Illustrated. 734 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. US$35.
The poet Paul Valéry wrote that anyone preparing to venture into the interior of the psyche had better go armed. It’s a warning to be heeded by the biographer, especially when his subject is as difficult as the photographer Diane Arbus (1923-71). Arthur Lubow, a journalist, confronted a figure heaped in myth, an artist-suicide whose work cannot be disentangled from the tragedy of her depression and death. In his 700-page investigation, he labored in the moonlight penumbra of those other fatal female luminaries: Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and Francesca Woodman. Lubow never mentions this “tradition,” but it forms the climate of critical and, above all, popular perception of the work. Likewise the sensational appeal of the subject matter: the sideshow characters, sword swallowers, dwarves, cross-dressers, nudists, giants and — most problematic — people with severe intellectual development disorders. “Freaks” Arbus herself called them, and Lubow frequently repeats the term. The nervous-making frisson these photographs set off when they first began to appear in 1960 can still be felt. Vampire or artist, exploiter or truth teller, genius or purveyor of spectacles that play to the cheap seats: The biographer is forced to take a stand on Arbus, even today