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The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even: A Novel Hardcover – June 10, 2014
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Art, for me, was both the symptom and the cure, explains narrator Isaac, referring to his obsessive-compulsive disorder. After the death of his mother exacerbates his symptoms, Isaac spends months in museums contemplating single objects (punctuated only by bouts of nonstop hand washing). When Greg, an art aficionado and fellow diagnosable from group therapy, convinces Isaac of the perfection of Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, they hatch a plan to break from their comfort zones by journeying to see the artist’s modernist masterpiece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Joined by Kelly, an indulgent art scholar, and guided by a 58-page plan, the pair commandeers a sterilized Winnebago and launches their aesthetic quest. Along the way, the friends channel Duchamp by restaging his works and embracing chance encounters and connections that are at once beautiful and absurd. Part treatise on art appreciation, part humorous on-the-road tale, neuropsychologist Westbury’s debut novel offers a compelling story about the role art can play to disrupt, delay, and contribute to human engagement with the real world. --Lindsay Bosch
"Part treatise on art appreciation, part humorous on-the-road tale, neuropsychologist Westbury’s debut novel offers a compelling story about the role art can play to disrupt, delay, and contribute to human engagement with the real world." Booklist
"It’s a sweet story, and it builds inevitably to a happy ending." Kirkus
"Clever, funny, and fun, and filled with great discussions about art" BookRiot
"Bright aesthetic discussion amid mishap; not just for the college-nostalgic but for anyone who enjoys a rush of ideas while being entertained." Library Journal, Top Summer Reads 2014
"Westbury, a cognitive neuropsychologist at the University of Alberta (Edmonton), has plenty to say about art and attention, about the line between sanity and mental illness, and about the nature of a well-lived life... Westbury's debut is a call to pay attention, and a reminder of the rewards of patience and open eyes." Barnes & Noble Review
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Our hero/guide literally goes on a road trip, but more importantly he just sort of wanders about inside his own head, picking up and examining and describing the odd bits of mental flotsam and jetsam that he discovers. The book is a little bit about Duchamp and modern art, a bit about friendship, to some degree about the bonds of family love, a touch about obsession, and a great deal about how to bring oneself out of the shadows to become a "doer".
If one is so inclined, this book can be read as a reinterpretation of the meaning of, or the intent behind, the Duchamp piece about which the book revolves. Isaac and Greg, unable to cope with the world around them, are driven to Philadelphia to view the Duchamp installation by the beautiful and brilliant Kelly. So we have two OCD bachelors and a beautiful young lady heading off to visit a piece that is traditionally read as a commentary on the sexual tension between the beautiful female and the bachelor males who surround her. Put that in your book club pipe and smoke it.
I prefer to enjoy this as a novel, not as the coolest Duchamp art gallery catalogue ever, but that's just me. Either way, much of the book - dialogue, Isaac's monologues, descriptions of the passing scene - are well crafted delights.
This is a rich feast and, charming though he may be, Isaac can be a demanding and wearing companion. This did not strike me as a book to devour. It is built for wandering; with its little asides, diversions, wrong turns and dead ends it invites the reader to observe but also to pause and reflect.
Mostly, though, this comes off as a light-hearted comic novel that touches on interesting themes in art, science, mental illness, obsession, and hand-sanitizer. That alone is enough to recommend it to me.
Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.