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Picture This: A Novel that Blends History, Art, and Politics by Joseph Heller



Joseph Heller Picture This Epub 11l: A Review




If you are looking for a witty, insightful, and unconventional book that explores the meaning of history, art, and politics, you might want to check out Joseph Heller's Picture This. In this article, I will review this novel by one of the most acclaimed American writers of the 20th century. I will give you an overview of the plot, the themes, and the style of the book, and explain why it is worth reading. I will also provide some FAQs at the end for those who want to learn more about the book and the author.




Joseph Heller Picture This Epub 11l


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Introduction




Who is Joseph Heller?




Joseph Heller (1923-1999) was an American novelist, essayist, and satirist. He is best known for his debut novel Catch-22 (1961), a dark comedy about the absurdity and futility of war. Catch-22 is widely considered as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and has influenced many other writers and artists. Heller wrote six other novels, as well as short stories, plays, screenplays, and memoirs. He was awarded several honors and prizes for his work, including the National Book Award and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award.


What is Picture This?




Picture This is Heller's fourth novel, published in 1988. It is a historical fiction that blends two different settings: ancient Greece in the 5th century BC, and modern America in the 20th century AD. The novel revolves around a painting of Socrates by Rembrandt, which serves as a link between the two eras. The novel explores how history repeats itself, how art reflects and influences reality, and how politics corrupts and manipulates people.


Why read Picture This?




Picture This is a novel that challenges and entertains the reader at the same time. It is a novel that makes you think about the big questions of life, such as what is truth, what is beauty, what is justice, and what is freedom. It is also a novel that makes you laugh at the absurdity and irony of human affairs, such as war, democracy, tyranny, and love. It is a novel that shows you how history is not a linear progression, but a cyclical pattern of rise and fall, success and failure, glory and shame. It is a novel that shows you how art is not a mere decoration, but a powerful expression of human spirit, creativity, and vision.


Main body




The plot of Picture This




The novel consists of three parts: Part One: Ancient Greece; Part Two: Modern America; Part Three: Ancient Greece Again. Each part alternates between chapters set in ancient Greece and chapters set in modern America. The chapters are connected by the painting of Socrates by Rembrandt, which appears in different locations and contexts throughout the novel.


The ancient Greece setting




The chapters set in ancient Greece depict the life and times of Socrates (469-399 BC), the famous philosopher who questioned everything and challenged the conventional wisdom of his society. The novel portrays his dialogues with his friends and enemies, his trial and execution, and his influence on his followers, especially Plato and Aristophanes. The novel also depicts the political and cultural events of the 5th century BC, such as the Peloponnesian War, the rise and fall of Athens, the emergence of democracy, and the development of art, literature, and science.


The modern America setting




The chapters set in modern America depict the life and times of Rembrandt (1606-1669), the famous painter who created the portrait of Socrates. The novel portrays his struggles and achievements, his personal and professional relationships, and his artistic vision and style. The novel also depicts the political and cultural events of the 17th century, such as the Dutch Golden Age, the Thirty Years' War, the rise and fall of Amsterdam, the emergence of capitalism, and the development of art, literature, and science.


The connections and contrasts




The novel draws parallels and contrasts between the two settings, showing how history repeats itself in different ways. For example, both Socrates and Rembrandt are depicted as outsiders who challenge the status quo and suffer for their convictions. Both Athens and Amsterdam are depicted as centers of civilization that flourish and decline due to their own hubris and corruption. Both democracy and capitalism are depicted as systems that promise freedom and prosperity but also breed inequality and exploitation. Both art and philosophy are depicted as forms of expression that reveal and question the nature of reality.


The themes of Picture This




The novel explores several themes that relate to history, art, and politics. Some of the main themes are:


The absurdity of history




The novel shows how history is not a rational or coherent process, but a chaotic and contradictory one. The novel mocks the pretensions and illusions of human beings who think they can control or understand history. The novel exposes the irony and paradox of historical events that often have unintended or opposite outcomes. For example, Socrates is executed for corrupting the youth, but his teachings inspire generations of thinkers. Rembrandt is rejected by his patrons for being too realistic, but his paintings become priceless masterpieces.


The power of art




The novel shows how art is not a passive or trivial activity, but an active and vital one. The novel celebrates the role and value of art in human society. The novel demonstrates how art can reflect and influence reality, how art can challenge and inspire people, how art can transcend and endure time. For example, the painting of Socrates by Rembrandt serves as a symbol of wisdom and courage that connects different eras and cultures.


The corruption of politics




The novel shows how politics is not a noble or fair endeavor, but a dirty and cruel one. The novel criticizes the hypocrisy and greed of political leaders who abuse their power and manipulate their followers. The novel warns against the dangers of political systems that oppress and exploit people. For example, both Athens and Amsterdam are shown as examples of democracy and capitalism gone wrong, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.


The style of Picture This




The novel employs several stylistic devices that enhance its meaning and effect. Some of the main devices are:


The satire and humor




The novel uses satire and humor to ridicule and expose the flaws and follies of human beings. The novel employs irony, sarcasm, exaggeration, parody, puns, jokes, and other forms of comedy to make fun of historical figures, events, ideas, and institutions. The novel also uses humor to lighten the mood and entertain the reader.


The nonlinear narrative




The novel uses a nonlinear narrative to create a complex and dynamic structure. The novel jumps back and forth between different time periods, locations, characters, perspectives, genres, tones, and formats. The novel challenges the reader to make connections and contrasts between different elements and layers of the story. The novel also creates a sense of surprise and suspense by switching between climax and anticlimax, resolution and complication, fact and fiction.


The intertextuality and references




The novel uses intertextuality and references to enrich its content and context. The novel incorporates and alludes to various sources of knowledge and culture, such as philosophy, literature, art, history, religion, mythology, science, and pop culture. The novel invites the reader to recognize and appreciate the multiple meanings and implications of these references. The novel also creates a sense of depth Conclusion




Summary of the main points




In this article, I have reviewed Joseph Heller's Picture This, a novel that blends ancient Greece and modern America through a painting of Socrates by Rembrandt. I have given you an overview of the plot, the themes, and the style of the book, and explained why it is worth reading.


Evaluation of the book




In my opinion, Picture This is a brilliant and original book that showcases Heller's talent and vision as a writer. It is a book that combines history, art, and politics in a witty and insightful way. It is a book that challenges and entertains the reader at the same time. It is a book that makes you think and laugh about the human condition.


Recommendations for further reading




If you enjoyed Picture This, you might also like some of Heller's other works, such as Catch-22, Something Happened, Good as Gold, and Closing Time. You might also like some other books that deal with similar topics or styles, such as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, and Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose.


FAQs




Here are some frequently asked questions about Picture This and their answers:



  • What is the meaning of the title Picture This?



The title Picture This has multiple meanings. It can be interpreted as a command to imagine or visualize something, such as history or art. It can also be interpreted as a reference to the painting of Socrates by Rembrandt, which is the central motif of the novel. It can also be interpreted as a comment on the nature of representation and reality, such as how pictures can distort or reveal the truth.


  • What is the significance of the number 11l in the title?



The number 11l in the title is a typographical error that Heller deliberately left in the novel. It is supposed to represent an exclamation mark (!), but it was printed as two ones and a lowercase L (11l) by mistake. Heller decided to keep it as a joke and a symbol of his disdain for conventional punctuation and grammar.


  • What is the genre of Picture This?



The genre of Picture This is hard to define, as it mixes elements from different genres. It can be considered as a historical fiction, as it recreates historical events and characters. It can also be considered as a satire, as it mocks and criticizes human society and behavior. It can also be considered as a metafiction, as it plays with the conventions and boundaries of fiction and reality.


  • What is the tone of Picture This?



The tone of Picture This is mostly humorous and sarcastic, but also sometimes serious and tragic. Heller uses humor and sarcasm to expose the absurdity and irony of history, art, and politics. He also uses humor and sarcasm to cope with the harshness and sadness of human existence. However, he also acknowledges the seriousness and tragedy of human affairs, such as war, death, injustice, and suffering.


  • What is the message of Picture This?



The message of Picture This is not clear or straightforward, as Heller does not offer any definitive answers or solutions to the questions he raises. However, one possible message of Picture This is that history is not a linear or rational process, but a cyclical and absurd one. Another possible message of Picture This is that art is not a passive or trivial activity, but an active and vital one. Another possible message of Picture This is that politics is not a noble or fair endeavor, but a dirty and cruel one.


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