I don’t know what I was expecting from The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro, but I got more than I was expecting. I really enjoyed reading it. It tell a great story that weaves fact with fiction, and history with intrigue. I had feared it would veer too much to the behind the scenes, inside of gossip of the art world, but instead it invented a world of secrets, lies and mystery. Continue reading
Sometimes I wish I had studied Art History in university. That’s why I picked up In Montmartre by Sue Roe. It looks at the rise of Modernism in early 20th Century Paris by focusing on Picasso and Matisse. And when I say Picasso and Matisse, I mean mostly Picasso, which was a disappointment because I’m more of a Matisse kind of gal. Continue reading
The Morels by Christopher Hacker was not at all what I was expecting when I picked up the novel. I was expecting something a little lighter, a little quirkier, something more like The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. The Morel family of the title is not particularly quirky and does not bring any of the humor of the Family Fang. Once I got past this and accepted that The Morels was a much more serious novel, the role and effect of Art at the end of the twentieth century I slowly warmed up to it. In fact by the end of the novel, I was even enjoying it, not wanting it to end.
The Morels recounts the story of child music prodigy turned writer Arthur Morel. It is told from the point of view of a childhood friend who unexpectedly comes back into his life just before the publication of his second novel. This highly autobiographical second novel entitled The Morels ends with a very troubling scene between Art and his eight year old son. Is it fiction or did it really happen?
Overall The Morels is an ambitious novel. At times this ambition slows down the plot as the characters dive down into the depths of ‘ontological ruminations’ on the true nature of art. Does art need to shock in order to be truly effective? The protagonist Art certainly thinks so and often lives by this creed to sometimes disastrous results. While Art’s actions and the inevitable fall out provide for an interesting story, the long discursive sections outlining and explaining Art’s motivations slow down the story and are at times tedious. I found this to be true especially in the early portions of the novel before I fell into Hacker’s pacing.
Perhaps the most interesting characters, Art’s parents, are not introduced until the second half of the novel. They raised Art in a most unique manner, that quite likely resulted in Art’s inability to fully fit in in regular society. For me, it was the parents and flashback to Art’s childhood that saved the novel. Until this point I was getting fed up and bored.
Who would like this book? This book would appeal to those looking for a more philosophically driven read, rather than a plot driven one. It is an excellent meditation on what it means to be an artist at this point in history. Is it the role of the artist to shock and raise consciousness? Or is it enough to submit the strictures of a market driven industry? In some ways Hacker raises issues similar to those found in The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, though I found the later to be much more readable and I believe it will receive much more critical acclaim than The Morels.
Full disclosure – I already own one of Jane Mount’s fabulous prints. It is one of my prized possessions (take a look). So it should come as no surprise that I love My Ideal Bookshelf, an illustrated book dedicated to the ideal bookshelves of significant producers of arts and culture. I received this book for Christmas and spent most of the day slowly flipping through the pages, peaking at the ideal bookshelves of luminaries such as Judd Apatow, Michael Chabon and Alice Waters. I must admit that part of the appeal of My Ideal Bookshelf is the slightly voyeuristic nature of the endeavour. It is thrilling to see that Chabon is also a fan of Proust and that my ideal bookshelf resembles that of a book cover designer who I had never heard of!
Each contributor has also written a small piece discussing their choices. This makes for some pretty fascinating reading and has made my reading list grow with authors I have never heard of before as well as perennial favorites who I am embarrassed to say I have never read. Taken as a whole the book is revealing about what people read and why. Hemingway seems to be more widely represented than any other writer. The Great Gatsby is on many a list. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is favoured over The Corrections.
Who would like this book? Do I really need to answer this? I thought not. It goes without saying that My Ideal Bookshelf is meant for the book fetishist. So go ahead, covet this book. It’s worth it.