Edward Hopper, that most American of artists: girlie shows, movie theaters, gas stations at night, that famous diner, strangers glimpsed in windows, the lonely streets, landscapes filled with yearning. Despite the isolation, or because of it, Hopper strikes a chord, touches us, draws us in. His subjects inhabit a world constructed entirely by the artist: lost in thought, still yet searching, his couples sit, stand, recline, sometimes side by side but never quite connected, the artist a master of isolation.
I felt compelled to make drawings, this one of the artist and a few of his paintings. At first they were going to be two-minute sketches, but Hopper took hold of me and my pencil just kept going. I even added a touch of color.
Of course Hopper is always about light and shadow, which brings me to the book, “In Sunlight or In Shadow, Stories Inspired By the Paintings of Edward Hopper,” brainchild of the legendary crime fiction writer, Lawrence Block, a man who has written some of the grittiest stories in American fiction though never without pathos, heart and a true sense of morality. That Lawrence Block should have created this anthology is pure kismet, a duet that was meant to be: Block/Hopper, Hopper/Block. And hat’s off to Pegasus Books and Claiborne Hancock, who was smart enough to get Block’s vision, and brave enough to say, Yes, let’s do this!
Block’s genius: Ask 17 writers to choose a Hopper painting and let it inspire a story. I can’t think of another time I have been prouder or more excited to be part of an anthology or in such good company: Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Craig Ferguson, Nicholas Christopher, Jill D. Block, Joe R. Lansdale, Justin Scott, Kris Nelscott, Warren Moore, Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, Gail Levin, and the amazing Lawrence Block.
Though Hopper’s paintings are open to myriad interpretations and narratives, once you read these stories you’ll never see the paintings in quite the same way.
Stephen King delivers with a story that makes Hopper’s “In the Music Room” sizzle with hilariously cool perversity.
Oh, what I could have done with “Girlie Show,” but when you read what Megan Abbott’s written you’ll be glad she wrote the story and not me. Joyce Carol Oates brings her unique blend of prose, pathos and yearning to “Eleven AM,” and Michael Connelly does “Nighthawks” proud.
Of course Lawrence Block is his usual brilliant self with “Autumn At the Automat.” And more. Every story is different, evocative and original.
I was drawn to “Night Windows” because it’s the perfect melding of two of my favorite
artists, Hopper and Hitchcock, a match made in heaven, or hell, depending on your point of view. To me, the painting immediately brought to mind Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” the ultimate voyeur dream, though I tried to crack it open and twist the dream best I could.
Here it is: The ultimate Christmas present for readers, art lovers and just about everyone in between.
MEET THE WRITERS:
The Whitney Museum, December 5, 7–8:30 PM Floor One, The Whitney Shop, The Whitney Museum, 99 Gansevoort Street, NY 10014, 212.570. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mysterious Bookshop: December 6, 6:30pm, 58 Warren Street
New York, NY 10007. Phone: 212-587-1011. Open To the Public.
Buy the Book: