Michelle Recommends: Still Life with Oysters and Lemons – Mark Doty

Combining memoir with artistic and philosophical musings, the poet and National Book Critics Circle Award winner (for My Alexandria) begins by confessing his obsession with the 17th-century Dutch still life that serves as the title of this book. As he analyzes the items depicted in the painting, he skillfully introduces his thoughts on our intimate relationships to objects and subsequently explains how they are often inextricably bound to the people and places of an individual lifetime. Further defined by imperfections attained from use, each object from an aging oak table to a chipped blue and white china platter forms a springboard for reflection. Doty intersperses personal reminiscences throughout, but he always returns to the subject of still-life painting and its silent eloquence.

Side effects of reading Still Life with Oysters and Lemon may include:

  • Never again looking at a still life paining the same way;
  • An undeniable urge to get your hands on every single thing Mark Doty has ever written;
  • Frequent virtual trips to museums worldwide (such as The Met or the Rijksmuseum, both of which feature in the book).