... these are intimate letters, their author seemingly having taken to heart Colette’s writing advice (look at what gives you pleasure, but look longest at what gives you pain), and it’s this that enables me to forgive, if not quite to overlook, the rather fey idea of a one-sided conversation with a woman who died in 1939 ... It is really Paul who’s centre stage, and she is fascinating; I do not feel, at this point, that I could ever tire of her mind, and the unlikely, singular way it turns. I want to know as much about her as I possibly can ... very much an artist’s book, its author at her most insightful when she is writing about her practice ... It’s rarer than one imagines, this: so few artists are able to articulate why, and how, they work. Then again, this is a volume born of battles that are, to a degree, universal in the case of women.
... excellent ... a risky conceit, but as the intimacy grows — if not with John, then certainly with us — their clarity on the grammars of gender is compelling, and utterly contemporary. Truthfulness does not run one way, any more than power and vulnerability do.
The conceit takes some time to bed in. The first letter, straining with forced intimacy, is at points embarrassing to read ... Even so, written from California, where Paul is giving a talk on her paintings, it underscores the artist’s loneliness, exacerbated by homesickness ... The book’s real treasure is Paul’s discussion of John’s paintings, and the comparisons she makes with her own work. She writes of their shared preference for female subjects, and analyses John’s technique, listing her palette like a catechism.