At the Met, Mr. Lerner stood before “Joan of Arc” so long and talked about it with such intensity that, in the peculiar way of museums, other people became gradually persuaded of its importance. A small crowd gathered. A nun pulled out an expensive-looking camera.
“That’s one of the things I really love about painting,” Mr. Lerner said, “the implied history of other people’s looking. I imagine all these very different people who have stood before a painting, people who, of course, I don’t know. Generations I don’t know. Which is in the novel a lot, that what’s interesting about a picture or a book is the community of viewers.”