Book review | Art as Therapy

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“The saying ‘art for art’s sake’ specifically rejects the idea that art might be for the sake of anything in particular, and therefore leaves the high status of art mysterious – and vulnerable. Despite the esteem art enjoys, its importance is too often assumed rather than explained. Its value is taken to be a manner of common sense. This is highly regrettable, as much for the viewers of art as for its guardians” (extract from Art as Therapy)

What book are we talking about?

Alain de Botton and John Armstrong’s new book: Art as Therapy. The book has been published alongside a special exhibition at the Rjiksmuseum, but also works as a stand-alone read. The title is a pretty good indication of what the book is about. The concept behind the book is that looking and experiencing art can help us in understanding and solving our daily dilemmas.

What’s it like?

Art as therapy reads as a mix of an opinion piece in a newspaper, an interesting conversation and an academic research. The inclusion of a ‘methodology’ chapter reminds of an academic research, and the logical structure of the writing shows that the book is indeed well thought out. However, the writing style is casual and the many examples and visual aids make it an entertaining read. Actually, the inclusion of the methodology chapter makes the book more accessible than it would otherwise be, because it does a good job at introducing a new way of looking at art.

Is it worth the read?

Apart from introducing their own theories, de Botton and Armstrong provide a background of how art can be analysed without being snobs. I enjoy the subtle humour found in a lot of de Botton’s work and the subject matter of this book is also a winner for me. For art lovers of museum goers I say this book is worth the read.

*for those techies with a smartphone*

Alain de Botton has also released a free Art as Therapy app where you can look up the artisic cures for whatever is ailing you. Not terribly elaborate, but cute and more than a gimmick.

Happy new year!

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Happy New Year! For me, the new year evokes both new determination (new goals!) and reflection. Perhaps new goals can only be effective when they are combined with reflection? I think that ‘Auld Lang Syne’,  by Robert Burns, really captures the reflection and nostalgia I partly associate with New Year. The first sentence, the most striking:  “should old aquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?”.  Thinking of old friends and the dreams I had when our friendship was alive helps remind me of who I wanted to be when I grew up.

(image, authors own, photograph used in image from here)

Getting to know | Das Magazin

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How we met:

I had read about Das Magazin, a Dutch literary magazine, in various articles (ranging from mentions in De Volkskrant to mentions in blogs). The magazine seemed to embrace a cultural shift towards book clubs and against superficial 50 shades of grey prose. Hence, when I saw it lying in my local bookstore, I picked it up.

First impression:

I was immediately drawn to the dandy theme and the stunning graphic layout. The detail of the embossed cover and weighty pages make it feel like a treasure. Rather than shying away from lengthy texts without pictures, the mood of the magazine makes me crave a cup of tea and a corner in which to retreat and read.

Favourite character traits:

The supplement guide to the modern dandy with instructions to ‘always be overeducated’ and to shave the hipster moustache (“because, let’s be honest, everyone despises hipsters”) is quaint and gives body to the dandy theme. Another highlight, aside from the stunning graphic layout, is the collection of Very Short Stories (VSS). Barely a paragraph of fiction, the two VSS by A.L. Snijders briefly create a mode and a thought – a sound bite to remind me of the joy of fiction.

A long-lasting friendship?

Reading Das Magazin feels like holding a piece of culture. Somehow, a subscription would diminish this, for I think the magazine should be picked up when browsing in a bookstore. I’ll keep my eye out for the next issue, and if a quirky theme or interesting stories tempt me, I’ll go on another date.