Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE WORK OF ART by Adam Moss


How Something Comes From Nothing

by Adam Moss

Pub Date: April 16th, 2024
ISBN: 9780593297582
Publisher: Penguin Press

A magazine editor asks a few dozen artists about their processes.

Moss, the former editor-in-chief of New York magazine, has always been fascinated by evidence that shows “artists caught in the act of making art…tossed-off sketches and more considered studies, unfinished work, meandering notes to self, scribbled lyric fragments, marked-up text, mad outlines. I find them almost inexplicably beautiful in all their genres.” In this handsome book, he interviews more than 40 creators in all disciplines who “walk me through, in as much detail as they could muster, the evolution of a novel, a painting, a photograph, a movie, a joke, a song, and to supply physical documentation of their process.” Many of the creators are well known, including Stephen Sondheim, Louise Glück, Twyla Tharp, and George Saunders. Others may be either less familiar or not someone readers would expect to see in a book about artists—such as Moses Sumney, a genre-blurring Ghanaian American singer-songwriter with an “ethereal falsetto”—Moss calls him an “indie sexpot”—and Ian Adelman and Calvin Seibert, creators of elaborate sand castles, who intrigued Moss with their devotion to “creating something meant to perish.” The book is amply illustrated, with sketches for dress designs, notes on animation, preliminary concepts for buildings, doodled ideas on coffee-stained napkins, and more. Moss occasionally makes curious statements, as when he writes that Sofia Coppola “had a childhood of privilege, which only makes her emergence as a major filmmaker that much more impressive to me.” Even those who agree she’s a fine director might argue that being Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter may have eased her path to prominence. For the most part, however, this is an inspiring work, especially for anyone struggling to create art and wondering whether the slogs and endless false starts are worth the effort.

An encouraging book dedicated to the pleasures and agonies of making art.