Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus & Howard Nemerov

Silent Dialogues: Diane Arbus & Howard Nemerov, by art historian Alexander Nemerov, is a probing, intimate reflection about photographer Diane Arbus, the author’s aunt, and her brother, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Howard Nemerov, the author’s father.

“I have no memories of Diane Arbus,” begins Alexander Nemerov in the first of two meditative essays that comprise this book. A Resemblance examines Howard Nemerov’s complicated responses to his sister’s photography. The School focuses on a body of Arbus’s work known as the Untitled series, photographs made at residences for the mentally retarded between 1969 and 1971, in the last years of her life. Through their work, the author explores the siblings’ disparate and distinct sensibilities and, in doing so, uncovers signs of an unexpected aesthetic kinship.

Illustrations complementing the essays include numerous examples of Diane Arbus’s photographs; paintings by artists as diverse as Pieter Brueghel, Norman Rockwell, Paul Feeley, and Johannes Vermeer; and a poignant selection of poems by Howard Nemerov, chosen by his son.

Alexander Nemerov is the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University and the author most recently of Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s (2013); To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America (2011); and Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War (2010)