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Life Studies : Stories Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 16, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In general, I found this book absorbing and vivid, but educated and relatively free from sentimentality. She is able to change voices well from character to character, but not so abruptly and obviously that the book loses fluidity. These chapters, each dedicated to a human life affected by a particular work of art, were saturated with reality and living detail. Really beautifully done; I was sorry to see it end.
Beginning in France in 1876, we are introduced to Renoir, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and Modigliani. In "Winter of Abandon", Claude Monet's wife dies, his children and those of his mistress stranded in the harsh winter, understanding that the lady must reclaim her family name at the thaw of spring. Meanwhile they cling to a world isolated from reality. The days are difficult for the wet nurse of the baby of Berthe and Eugene Manet ("Cradle Song") and her own child dies while she lives with the couple. Completely unaware of the heartbreak of the servant's life, the couple fixates on their own obsessions, including Berthe's attraction to her brother-in-law, Edouard Manet. And in "Olympia's Look", Suzanne Manet, widow of Edouard, enjoys the revenge of a lifetime.
Vincent Van Gogh ("The Yellow Jacket") warns his subject, "You can ruin yourself in the night cafes", where the absinthe flows freely and muddles the senses. Walking the streets of Arles, Van Gogh stares raptly at the wonder of nature's colors. Curiously (for me), the stories I enjoyed the least were those about Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne; these have less of the emotional richness of the first stories. Yet, in the very next one, "A Flower for Ginette", the magic is back, the author's descriptions evoking images of the great paintings, made more real by the histories that surround them.
In contrast to the historical stories at the beginning, separated by an enchanting travel tale, the second half of the book consists of more contemporary tales, people who inhabit the real world and their relationships to art. These tales provide the small intimacies that transcend the years, linking genius to humanity. This author is at her most confidant when speaking in the language of the artist, shaping images into words, painting stories for her readers. "All art is a matter of reception." Luan Gaines/ 2005.
These are unusual stories in form and perception. Art and the artist are seen from an angle, often told from the perspective of a model or a child or a lover. It is as if you rounded a corner and bumped into Renoir's easel or noticed Cézanne across a country road talking to a friend. These artists touch you as they really lived, as rather ordinary people. The stories are sometimes as quiet as walk in the woods. But in the end you feel you have known the little boy who threw stones at Cézanne, or the tired banker who goes to a weekend gathering in Montmartre and finds, in a short conversation with the artist Renoir who lives upstairs, a new joy in his life.
Of the contemporary stories in the second half of the book, "Crayon," about a little girl and her dying artist grandfather is such a beautiful piece of writing.
This book is for any reader who would like to know what it was like to see one of these artists not as some sort of sexual athlete or superman but walking across the street quietly with his paint box in his hand.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Couldn't put it down.
If you love art this is your book.
Ellen in Seattle