Mar 27, 2008

The Artist

by Norman Garbo

This is one book I discovered because the title caught my eye on a free shelf. When I began reading it, I looked up the names involved and found that this novel appears to be pretty obscure. Is it an awful book? Not at all. Disturbing, certainly. Violence, s-x and racism all move in huge continuous waves through the pages.

It is about an artist called Duvid Karlinsky, of an immigrant family, who grows up in a New York slum. I really enjoyed reading the parts about how he studied painting, worked in the studio, struggled to get his art seen. He refused to paint pretty pictures that people liked- instead depicting the ugliness of the slums around him, raising public awareness of oppression and poverty. Eventually this landed him as a correspondence artist for the newspapers in WWI, where he witnessed more horrors, and participated in his own share of violence. After some thirty years back home, he went overseas again to paint and fight during WWII. There's a lot of heavy material in The Artist about hate and intolerance between ethnic and religious groups. These scenes of racial strife alternate with passages of love- describing Duvid's relationships with the three women of his life: an actress, a prostitute, and a girl he met on the beach near his studio. I was surprised to find that certain scenes for once did not offend me, but were just a natural part of the story, not overly detailed or exaggerated.

The Artist is a compelling story about one man's lifelong striving to turn the ugliness around him into something permanent on canvas. Sadly, it never seems to absolve his inner unrest, but just reflects the inhumanity of life around him. As much as I enjoyed reading about a painter, overall this story did not sit well with me. The passion, violence and hatred all rush together to a terrible final scene that hits like a dead weight. With the rape, murder and destruction it ended up being more of a thriller/horror story at the end, which I ought to have seen coming, but didn't. Left me with a bad taste in mind, and I had to quickly turn to lighter reading.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 477 pages, 1978

1 comment:

verbivore said...

You mentioned this one on my blog a couple posts back so I was curious to read your review of it. It sounds interesting. One of those books you can't decide on until you read them.
I'll enter myself in your drawing!