|| Print ||
|Written by Dahlia Liwsze|
|Thursday, 17 May 2012 00:00|
Imagine being a New York City art world star one minute and then having a nervous breakdown post-9/11, living in a government subsidized motel room in Gold Haven, Michigan, and being visited by famous dead artists like Picasso. Welcome to pop artist Milo Sonas' world in Ivan Jenson's 2011 novel Dead Artist.
Forty-five year-old Milo remembers his glory days in the 80s and 90s when he was frequently recognized, had no problem selling his art on the street, and enjoyed a constant stream of women in his life.
Now he is unmarried, lonely, and financially supported by his mother, Sonia Sonas. He seeks counsel from Dr. Hyatt, a psychiatrist who cannot meet with him because he lost his license, and spends time with his dog, Moon, his 16-year-old nephew Donny who weighs over 200 lbs, and supernatural friends the late Picasso and Van Gogh (for example, he goes tanning with the former and sets up the latter with a feisty Polish girl). He actually sees the two painters as his fathers, and they fulfill that role more than his real-life welfare father, a failed novelist.
Milo's fortune, however, begins to shift when he is suddenly rediscovered by Nick, a former collector, who promises to revive his career. First, he must deal with his eccentric family, including a disastrous reunion with his resentful brother Ray, and plan his dying mother's funeral (one she plans to attend), and his own wedding to Samantha, a university co-ed, in the same afternoon.
Jenson vividly depicts the artist as a post-modern man. I thought his novel was entertaining and hilarious, with sensual elements, and especially liked passages where Picasso or Van Gogh were present or the topic of discussion. One such scene is when Samantha tells Milo that Picasso has a mood disorder and needs medication. Milo's response? "Look! Can you blame him for getting depressed? People are making millions off of his art and he is dead and there is nothing he can do about it but sit back and watch" (57).
Dead Artist features a quirky cast of characters and the comical streams-of-consciousness (I confess it took me a little while to get used to this style of writing) of a paranoid and lonely artist who is as odd as he is loveable. Milo is also relatable-we all struggle with self-consciousness and uncertainties in life. The novel further encourages the reader to appreciate the artistic process and want to visit a gallery (at least I kind of felt that way after reading the novel).
So if you're looking for a fun spring read, I would recommend Dead Artist. The plot is amusing and fluid. The unlikely friendship between Milo, Van Gogh, and Picasso is strange but brilliant. Plus the light and humorous tone of the novel will be appreciated by readers who want something different but not too outrageous.
Tags: art, book review, books, dead artist, hen press, humour, illumination, ivan jenson, levity, literature, morbid, picasso, van gogh