Brush With Death – Slate Magazine

by Carol Kino There’s a terrific art world novel out this season, and it isn’t Updike’s. American art novels tend to come in two varieties—commercial and literary. The commercial kind tends to focus on chic-but-sleazy openings and socializing, which are undoubtedly the most vapid, least interesting aspect of the scene. The literary kind usually gives this cliché-ridden territory a twist by interpolating the life story of another cliché—some saintly personage who seeks bliss far from the madding crowd, in plain old traditional painting. It goes without saying that both kinds are usually penned by people who seem to have little insight into the world they attempt to conjure. John Updike’s Seek My Face, this fall’s leading entry into the art novel sweepstakes, falls straightinto the same traps as so many other literary art novels. It’s a roman à clef that uses a semi-invented artist character to re-imagine the story of postwar American art. Happily, though, … Read more