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.
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.
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, and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. Heller died in 1999.
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.