Still Life with Oysters and Lemon

by Mark Doty
Review by Tara Caimi

Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy is a lyrical exploration of the ways in which art not only reflects but also transcends life, giving it a higher, eternal meaning. Through analyzing a seventeenth century Dutch still life painting, Mark Doty examines the delicate balance of the human condition. With the painting as the emotional catalyst, Doty brings his world to life through sensory details and poignant memories that illustrate the mysterious inevitabilities that touch all human hearts.

Prior to reading this book, I hadn’t considered the difference in the emotional reaction evoked by a book in relation (or as opposed) to that evoked by a painting. In overly simplistic terms, with books, the intellect precedes and often guides emotional reaction, whereas with paintings, the emotional reaction often precedes intellectual interpretation. This book by Mark Doty is as close to the cerebral representation of a painting as I have the ability to imagine.

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