The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning
Reality and entertainment crowd our fields of vision with brutal imagery. The pervasiveness of images of torture, horror and war has all but demolished the twentieth-century hope that such imagery might shock us into a less alienated state or aid in the creation of a just social order. Maggie Nelson brilliantly navigates the contemporary predicament, with an eye to the question of whether or not focusing on representations of cruelty makes us cruel. In a journey through high and low culture (Kafka to reality TV), the visual to the verbal (Paul McCarthy to Brian Evenson), and the apolitical to the political (Francis Bacon to Kara Walker), Nelson offers a model of how one might balance strong ethical convictions with an equally strong appreciation for work that tests the limits of taste, taboo and permissibility.
"Nelson makes a compelling case for taking a new look at cruelty." Patrick Langley, The Times Literary Supplement "She [Maggie Nelson] performs the feat of writing a very discursive text, meandering around its subject in wide loops and turns, and at the same time producing an incisive and astute consideration, not only of the art of cruelty but of art itself, and our relationship to it as spectators, participants and humans." Times Higher Education "An important and frequently surprising book...could be read as the foundation for a post-avant-garde aesthetics." The New York Times Book Review "...fascinating and supremely intelligent account.." The Herald