Beach reading for artists

I like artist protagonists, and this year the following three novels and a short, entertaining guide to modern poetry written by David Orr, the poetry reviewer at the New York Times Book Review are on my summer reading list. For readers interested in the connection between poetry and art,  Raphael Rubinstein has contributed an excellent project this month to Art in America, which, unfortunately, isn’t posted on the AiA website, but definitely worth a read.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

“Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
long ago compromised her dream to be a successful artist, mother and
lover. She has instead become the �woman upstairs,� a reliable friend
and neighbor always on the fringe of others� achievements. Then into her
life arrives the glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahids�her new student
Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale, and his
parents: Skandar, a dashing Lebanese professor who has come to Boston
for a fellowship at Harvard, and Sirena, an effortlessly alluring
Italian artist….”

Center of the World by Thomas Van Essen
“Alternating between nineteenth-century England and present-day New York,
this is the story of renowned British painter J. M. W. Turner and his
circle of patrons and lovers. It is also the story of Henry Leiden, a
middle-aged family man with a troubled marriage and a dead-end job, who
finds his life transformed by his discovery of Turner�s The Center of the World, a mesmerizing and unsettling painting of Helen of Troy that was thought to have been lost forever….”

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
“In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, two men dressed as police
officers bound and gagged two guards at the Isabella Stewart Gardner
Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, and stole thirteen works of art worth
today over $500 million. Despite thousands of hours of police work and a
$5 million reward, the artwork has never been recovered. Claire Roth, a
struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this
crime than meets the eye….”

Beautiful & Pointless {A Guide to Modern Poetry} by David Orr

“Award-winning critic David Orr
provides a riveting tour of poetry as it actually exists today. Orr
argues that readers should accept the foreignness of poetry in the way
that they accept the strangeness of any place to which they haven’t
traveled�they should expect a little confusion, at least at first. Yet
in the same way that we can, over time, learn to appreciate the
idiosyncratic delights of, for instance, Belgium, we can learn to be
comfortable with the odd pleasures of poetry by taking our time and
pursuing what we like….”


  1. I have to put in a plug for Phillip Ball's book, Bright Earth. While not exactly new, it's not exactly been talked about. Simply put it's a book about pigment. While not sounding exciting in that regard, it's fascinating and worth the time.

    Not exactly light and breezy beach reading, but engaging and thought provoking.

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