Sunday, April 3, 2011

Art Attack: Fiction Coloured by the World of Art

While I was doing the research for my April 30th post on artistically inclined nonfiction in celebration of the library's Art Attack programming series, my first stop was to examine my own reading history for books to include. As I was flipping through the pages of my book journal, one thing quickly became clear: I actually only read a small amount of nonfiction about art, but art often plays a role in much of the fiction I read. The art in these books may be front and centre, or it may just be part of the background, but in every case it plays an important role in shaping the story.

Big White Knuckles
by Brian Tucker

Dagan Caden lives in New Waterford, Nova Scotia, the son of a coal miner whose future has always been imagined to be in the mines but Dagan has a talent for drawing and wants to pursue it. An irreverent and hilariously funny story about the misadventures and opportunities presented by a talent that isn't necessarily appreciated by your community. Publisher's description: "Big White Knuckles is a remarkably funny and poignant book about courage and sacrifice and what it takes to become the person you want while remaining loyal to the things that made you what you are."

The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
by Reif Larsen

T.S. Spivet is a precocious "twelve-year-old genius cartographer" living in rural Montana. A phone call changes his life when he is told he's to receive a prestigious award from the Smithsonian institution, and he sets out across American alone in order to deliver his acceptance speech in person. A coming-of-age novel which on the surface seems to have both feet firmly planted in the scientific realm, but in actuality is a great book if you're interested in the place where art, science and life meet.

Holy Skirts
by René Steinke

I did a blog post about Holy Skirts several months back, but I couldn't help but include it again here. A fictional account of the larger than life Dada artist and poet Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven who took the New York art scene by storm in the early 20th century: great historical fiction for art lovers.

Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann

Is tightrope walking art? Philippe Petit certainly thought it was when he undertook his master work: a walk between the twin towers of NYC's World Trade Center in August of 1974. McCann's book is a kaleidoscope of stories that has Petit above it all and (as the publisher tells us) "In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in [a] stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people." This book can be read in many ways, but one of them is definitely relates to what art can illuminate in the everyday."

by Belinda Starling

The Journal of Dora DamageA first novel that raises questions about our perceptions of art. In this case both what constitutes art and what we find acceptable in art. The library catalogue summarizes the tale this way: "On the brink of destitution, Dora Damage illicitly takes over her ailing husband's bookbinding business, only to find herself lured into binding expensive volumes of pornography commissioned by aristocratic roués". Fascinating historical fiction.

Still Life
by Louise Penny

I also recently wrote a blog post about this book. The first in an ever-more-popular mystery series set in Quebec. This book is peopled with all kinds of art and artists, including this tale's victim, a retired school teacher and amateur painter.

Do you have a favourite novel with artistic leanings? Let us know in the comments below.

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