Picture This

( 3 )

Overview

Picture this: Rembrandt is creating his famous painting of Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer. As soon as he paints an ear on Aristotle, Aristotle can hear. When he paints an eye, Aristotle can see. And what Aristotle sees and hears and remembers from the ancient past to this very moment provides the foundation for this lighthearted, freewheeling jaunt through 2,500 years of Western Civilization.
Picture This is an incisive fantasy that digs deeply into our illusions and ...

See more details below
Paperback
$12.50
BN.com price
(Save 16%)$15.00 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (38) from $1.99   
  • New (14) from $8.07   
  • Used (24) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

Picture this: Rembrandt is creating his famous painting of Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer. As soon as he paints an ear on Aristotle, Aristotle can hear. When he paints an eye, Aristotle can see. And what Aristotle sees and hears and remembers from the ancient past to this very moment provides the foundation for this lighthearted, freewheeling jaunt through 2,500 years of Western Civilization.
Picture This is an incisive fantasy that digs deeply into our illusions and customs. Nobody but Joseph Heller could have thought of a novel like this one. Nobody but Heller could have executed it so brilliantly.

The author of the outrageous classic, Catch-22 once again comments on all of society and history with this whirlwind tour through the minds of Aristotle and Rembrandt. Their vastly different worlds are not so very different from each other, or for that matter, from our own world. "History as told by Heller is so comic and heartbreaking that you wonder why anyone would want to live there.--San Fransisco Chronicle.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The New York Times Book Review Mr. Heller treats the whole panorama of history past and present with the bravado of Mark Twain in one of his sassier moods.

Doris Lessing I think Picture This is brilliant. It has the astringency and wit of Catch-22, matured.

San Francisco Chronicle The author of the outrageous classic Catch-22 once again comments on all of society and history with this whirlwind tour through the minds of Aristotle and Rembrandt. Their vastly different worlds are not so very different from each other, or for that matter, from our own world. History as told by Heller is so comic and heartbreaking that you wonder why anyone would want to live there.

Chicago Sun-Times Ingenious — another new kind of novel: intelligent and written with grace....A fiction to appreciate and ponder.

Vogue Pure renegade Heller — at best, as sharp (and thoroughly American) as Lizzie Borden's axe.

Rita Mae Brown Chimerical, political, and funny, Picture This is a novel with fangs....His flashiest since Catch-22.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a radical departure, Heller has concocted a clever, strange piece of experimental historical fiction. As the novel begins, slovenly, debt-ridden Rembrandt van Rijn is painting his now-famous Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer. Suddenly, we are whisked from 17th century Holland to ancient Greece, where an exiled, weary Aristotle clairvoyantly watches Rembrandt doing his portrait. Not much has changed, the philosopher concludes as he gazes down the centuries at our dawning modern era of greed, wars and capitalism run amok. Written in a flat, reportorial style, omniscient in viewpoint, the narrative confusingly and annoyingly jumpcuts in time and spacebetween and within epochs. The chapters on Athens, where Plato pontificates while Socrates berates the belligerent youth Alcibiades, are occasionally wickedly funny. Best read in short takes, this startling parable about the degeneration of art into commodity and the survival of human values in a materialistic world demands total suspension of disbelief. For willing readers, it casts an undeniable spell. First serial to Playboy; BOMC featured alternate. September
Library Journal
Less a novel than a discursive meditation on a theme, this work broods over the manifold implications of the Metropolitan Museum's possessing Rembrandt's Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer. Juxtaposing the Periclean Age with the Golden Era of the Dutch Empire, and always aware of the quasi-imperialism of recent American history, Heller focuses and refocuses in different historical settings on the ambiguous incompatibilities of art and contemplation with the equally human drives of material lust, vanity, and ambition. The collapsed and degraded Athenian Empire, collapsed and degraded European imperialism, and our own post-1945 history of cold, tepid, and hot wars are brought into pathetic consonance. Sardonic, polemical, occasionally preachy and turgid, but to my mind Heller's most interesting book since Catch-22 . Earl Rovit, City Coll., CUNY
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684868196
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/24/2000
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 640,150
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. In 1961, he published Catch-22, which became a bestseller and, in 1970, a film. He went on to write such novels as Good as Gold, God Knows, Picture This, Closing Time (the sequel to Catch-22), and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. Heller died in December 1999.

Biography

Sometimes life traps you in an unfortunate situation that is impossible to escape from because of a set of inherently absurd rules. Take Joseph Heller, for example. The very first novel he published was among the most biting, powerful, hilarious examples of contemporary literature, a genuine classic of 1960s anti-war literature. Yet, Heller was forever trapped by that novel, unable to achieve similar success with his subsequent works no matter how fine they may have been. Both that painful predicament and that auspicious debut novel are known as Catch-22, and one hopes that an absurdist such as Joseph Heller had to at least appreciate that irony a little.

Catch-22 (1961) was somewhat based on Heller's own experiences as a B-25 bombadier in the Twelfth Air Force during World War II. It is the story of John Yossarian, a malingering bombardier stationed in Italy during the war. He lives in constant terror of being killed, so he flies each of his missions with the sole goal of returning alive. Unfortunately, Colonel Cathcart keeps increasing the number of missions he must undertake in order to complete his service. Yossarian's only way out is to prove that he is insane. Of course, the only way he can do that is to willingly take the most dangerous missions the air force has to offer. Yossarian's ridiculous, unwinnable situation is the Catch-22 from which the novel gets its name.

Heller uses Yossarian's situation as a means to satirize and criticize the military and dehumanizing bureaucracies in general. The novel follows a disorienting logic of its own, owing more to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland than any war-themed novel before it. Consequently, Heller's unique approach to his subject had a deep influence on writers such as Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five) and Tom Robbins (Villa Incognito). In 1970, Catch-22 was adapted into a star-studded feature film by director Mike Nichols (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ; The Graduate). Although many viewed the film as a disappointment, it had its fair share of highly inspired sequences, and in all fairness, the whimsical structure of the novel does not easily lend itself to the cinematic medium.

With a genuine classic on his hands, Heller then took his time producing his second novel. Something Happened did not appear until 1974, but it continued many of the themes present in Catch-22. This time around he directed his poison pen at the dehumanizing effects of the big-business world. Heller's tangy blend of pessimism and humanism would be the driving force behind the majority of his work that followed, including Good as Gold, Closing Time (a sequel to Catch-22), and the play We Bombed New Haven. However, none of his subsequent efforts came close to matching the success or influence of Catch-22, a fact that irked Heller until his death. His final novel, the posthumously published Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man, explored this very theme as writer Eugene Pota struggles to decide upon a subject for his final novel.

Despite his own misgivings about his career, Joseph Heller will forever be remembered as a giant in American literature, even if it is only due to his first novel... and that's the kind of Catch-22 in which most writers would kill to be trapped.

Good To Know

Heller often supplemented his income by taking screenwriting jobs. He worked on screenplays for the films Sex and the Single Girl and Casino Royale, and even worked on the television show McHale's Navy under the pseudonym "Max Orange."

Heller's great abhorrence of war transcended his novels and plays. During the ‘60s, he was very involved in the movement against the war in Vietnam.

Although Catch-22 is regarded as an American classic, it did not truly nab public attention until receiving glowing notices in Great Britain a year after its U.S. debut.

Read More Show Less
    1. Also Known As:
      Max Orange
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 1, 1923
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      December 12, 1999
    2. Place of Death:
      East Hampton, New York

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer thought often of Socrates while Rembrandt dressed him with paint in a white Renaissance surplice and a medieval black robe and encased him in shadows. "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius," Plato has Socrates saying after he had swallowed his cup of poison and felt the numbing effects steal up through his groin into his torso and approach his heart. "Will you remember to pay the debt?"

Now Socrates, of course, did not owe a cock to Asclepius, the god of medicine.

And the leather merchant Asclepius, you will find written here, son of the physician Eurymynedes, was as baffled as anyone to learn of the bequest from the slave who appeared on his doorstep in the morning with a live rooster in his arms. The authorities were curious also and took him into custody for questioning. They put him to death when he continued to profess his ignorance and would not reveal the code.

Copyright © 1998 by Joseph Heller

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter 1

Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer thought often of Socrates while Rembrandt dressed him with paint in a white Renaissance surplice and a medieval black robe and encased him in shadows. "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius," Plato has Socrates saying after he had swallowed his cup of poison and felt the numbing effects steal up through his groin into his torso and approach his heart. "Will you remember to pay the debt?"

Now Socrates, of course, did not owe a cock to Asclepius, the god of medicine.

And the leather merchant Asclepius, you will find written here, son of the physician Eurymynedes, was as baffled as anyone to learn of the bequest from the slave who appeared on his doorstep in the morning with a live rooster in his arms. The authorities were curious also and took him into custody for questioning. They put him to death when he continued to profess his ignorance and would not reveal the code.

Copyright © 1998 by Joseph Heller

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 25, 2009

    Far ahead of his time.

    Joseph Heller's "Picture This" has yet to be fully appreciated because the world is not yet ready to change the subjective opinions of the facts which have made our history books sources of misinformation. As the wise saying goes, what we have learned from history is that we don't learn from history.

    Heller seeks to rectify this. Comparing Aristotle and his times (the Greeks weaned on Homer's epic novels), the Enlightenment (made possible by the invention of the printing press), the beginnings of the industrial revolution (which included Rembrandt's artful ups and downs) and life as it is today, what we are shown is that nothing has changed, and the only true hero is the least understood of the Hellenic Greeks three most famous philosophers: Socrates (time having discredited the subjective ideas of both Plato and Aristotle.)

    What Socrates taught and preached was the reward that comes from using of our reasoning powers to dispel our deep-seated illusions of grandeur and delusions of persecution; the reward being both the wisdom of ethical behavior and the happiness that comes from attaining peace of mind.

    Luckily, Heller survived the war and lived to tell about it. His abhorance of war, and of the injustices he saw, were the subject matter of his books. Unfortunately, he was seen as merely a humorist; his subsequent books were judged as his never having lived up to his potential.

    The barbs of satire are aimed at human foibles. When completely understood satire becomes a source of comedy, but when not understood it is seen as criticism and reacted to as a personal threat. Unfortunately, we are still in the habit of killing the messenger.

    Although the sorry fate of Socrates is well known and hard to endure--man's inhumanity to man a current theme--this book needs to be read more than once.

    Joan Morrone

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2000

    Some Picture

    Wow and Wow! When I first read this book it felt like I was reading someone's college thesis or something. It is literally a history book, but somehow Joseph Heller pokes his head through the painting of Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer. Heller takes us abroad on a journey through time. From Plato to Rembrandt and even after that. The main character of this book is canvas. Now that is innovative (no sarcasm). As you read this you feel like you are reading a real important book (a natural and totally appropriate feeling). It is almost like you are reading something that no one else could read. It is so original that it is frightening to picture Joseph Heller plunging into history books and art archives to come up with this stuff. Personally I was freaked out, because I didn't know if this was a real book or if it was just fiction thrown together with famous names. I am indebt to Joseph Heller for knocking me on my butt every time I read one of his books. Even though he is not with us now, his words are a posthumous/posthumorous tombstone. I cannot recommend this book anymore.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2001

    Aristotle Gone Wacko For His Book

    Everyone this is a great book and I think any age group would love it

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)