Book review: Collectible art book filled with stories


By Colin Harrington

Special to The Eagle

In his new volume, "If You See Something, Say Something: A Writer Looks at Art," author Willard Spiegelman encourages us to look deeply and enjoy what we see in art and architecture.

The complete aesthetic appreciation for a wide variety of art and architecture is enhanced by where it is, what the story behind it may be, and perhaps what history and critics may have said about it. These factors can magnify the enjoyment we get from it all. The writing in this collectible art book is clear, revealing and entertaining. It is about how a viewer can see more in art by examining its unique elements and practicing how to look. It is about discovering what delight can come from seeing art originating in many locales. Every essay includes the kind of in-depth and personal commentary well known from Spiegelman.

Each essay in this anthology was originally written for a regular series in The Wall Street Journal. They are collected into one volume, dedicated to finding great art in a wide-ranging geographic area, starting at the author's home in Texas. It is a treasure trove of information and at once a travel log, a guide book and an entire set of top-rated tours, written by one of America's great essayists.

"If You See Something" is entertaining and full of fascinating stories and guides to the artistic sites, architecture collections and all set in the easy, confident language of a knowing art reviewer. The book is sectioned into three geographic categories Part 1: Texas (19 Essays) Part 2: Elsewhere in the United States (10 Essays), and Part 3: The Rest of the World (16 essays) where a total of 45 sites are visited and commented upon.

Stunning full-color glossy photographs head each chapter. The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas; the amazing Interfaith Peace Chapel in Dallas; the Rothko Chapel: An Interior of Spiritual and Artistic Subtlety in Houston, Texas; the transforming Zen garden of Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan; The Piazza Navona in Rome — just to name a few of the locales discussed in this book. Many may be unfamiliar until seeing them in this collection. Spiegelman focuses on wonderful pieces of art in many of the essays such as Frederic Edwin Church's haunting painting, "The Iceberg" (1861), at the Dallas Museum of Art. His stories behind the places and art are unforgettable.

Spiegelman was the first resident scholar at The Amy Clampitt Residency Program from 2003-2004 at Amy Clampitt's former house in Stockbridge. Among 10 other books on poetry, he was editor of "Love Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt." He is a graduate of Williams College and is editor-in chief of The Southwest Review. Spiegelman will be appearing at 3 p.m. today at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox.

Colin Harrington is the Events Manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. Colin welcomes reader comments at


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