by Leigh Wiener

A sketch for a painfully unflattering portrait of human nature, this book consists of 122 photographs of a bullfight in Mexico in 1961, ordered chronologically, with no text other than the times they were taken—from 4:29:40 P.M. to 5:21 P.M. They show, very graphically, the gradual, torturous slaughter of the bull. They also show spectators' reactions, from the sadistic to the (equally alarming) indifferent. Cutting back and forth between the bull and fans, Wiener provokes a lot of questions that boil down to: What satisfaction is there for spectators in this spectacle?

Wiener is a veteran photographer whose work has illustrated five books by or about poet Robinson Jeffers as well as appeared in such magazines as TIME and PEOPLE. He took the pictures in this book for LIFE, but the magazine never published them. It wasn't until some of his photos appeared in a Los Angeles exhibit in 1988 that Wiener found a publisher willing to turn his bullfight pictures into a book. The result isn't the most damning testimony to man's inhumanity ever recorded. In its insight into our capacity to enjoy and tolerate casual cruelty, though, it is sobering. (7410 Publishing Co., P.O. Box 46278, Los Angeles 90046, $40; paper, $24.95)

  • Contributors:
  • David Grogan,
  • Ralph Novak,
  • David Hiltbrand.