is one of the best works of criticism in recent memory. Nelson
examines everything from Yoko Ono’s weird performance art to the
contemporary horror flick in a sweeping attempt to understand the nature
of cruelty in art and determine how moral beings might navigate a world
enriched and complicated by it. Her voice is incendiary, sensitive,
and thoroughly unpretentious. Though I was a fan way back at Jane: A Murder, The Art of Cruelty put Maggie Nelson on the map as a thinker to watch. Kim — From 2012 Pick of the Year: The Art of Cruelty
"This is criticism at its best." —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
Writing in the tradition of Susan Sontag and Elaine Scarry, Maggie Nelson has emerged as one of our foremost cultural critics with this landmark work about representations of cruelty and violence in art. From Sylvia Plath’s poetry to Francis Bacon’s paintings, from the Saw franchise to Yoko Ono’s performance art, Nelson’s nuanced exploration across the artistic landscape ultimately 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.
About the Author
Maggie Nelson, a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, is the author of several books of poetry, autobiography, and criticism. She teaches at CalArts and lives in Los Angeles, California.
An important and frequently surprising book… could be read as the foundation for a post-avant-garde aesthetics… Nelson, who is also a poet, is such a graceful writer that I…just sat back and enjoyed the show. — Laura Kipnis - New York Times Book Review
[Nelson’s] critiques of individual artists are delightfully fierce without being mean spirited… Fascinating and bracingly intelligent…The Art of Cruelty’s prose is often gorgeous.
— Troy Jollimore - Boston Globe
A lean-forward experience, and in its most transcendent moments, reading it can feel like having the best conversation of your life. — Rachel Syme - NPR Books
I hope that critics, and aspiring critics, and those who are interested in the relationship between art and ethics, read [The Art of Cruelty].
— Susie Linfield - New Republic
[Nelson] dexterously, and creatively, manages to hold a mirror to our culture’s fascination with cruelty and invites us to reflect on our personal reasons for indulging it. — Eleni Theodoropoulos - Literary Hub