An enlightening exploration of the symbiotic relationship between art and literature.

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THE PEN AND THE BRUSH

HOW PASSION FOR ART SHAPED NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRENCH NOVELS

How hundreds of stolen paintings affected 19th-century French writers.

Goncourt Prize–winning author Muhlstein approaches literature in a unique way. In Monsieur Proust’s Library (2012), she explored his lengthy novel via the books he read, while Balzac’s Omelette (2011) examined how food influenced his novels. Here, Muhlstein looks at French authors of the 19th century via art, starting with the French Revolution. Thanks to Napoleon’s victories and his “to the victor belong the spoils” approach, convoys laden with great art made their ways to France (especially the Louvre). The government then did something new, letting their citizens view the art for free. The public and writers went in droves. Thus, “two forms of art were entwined.” Muhlstein focuses on the writings of Balzac, Zola, Huysmans, Maupassant, and Proust to show how they were profoundly affected by these works of art, many of which they had never seen before. Each began creating more artist characters and, more importantly, “truly invented a visual style of writing.” Balzac came under the influence of Rembrandt, Raphael, and Delacroix. “Opening a Balzac novel,” writes Muhlstein, is like walking into a museum,” watching the artists and models “step out of their frames to come into the story.” Unlike Balzac, Zola always lived among painters, and the influence of art on his writing style was immense. Cézanne was a good friend, and Zola often modeled for his paintings. Under the influence of the impressionists and their attention to light, Muhlstein argues, Zola “became the first landscapist writer.” Huysmans’ “extravagant and fantastical” novel Against the Grain clearly shows the influence of the painter Gustave Moreau. Maupassant chose to make a painter his main character in Strong as Death: “his characters’ choice of art would inform readers about their personalities.” The “last great fictional painter” of the century, Proust, was deeply affected by the works of Monet and Turner.

An enlightening exploration of the symbiotic relationship between art and literature.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2017

ISBN: 978-1590518052

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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