THE BEAUTIFUL DREAM OF LIFE by Domingo  Zapata

THE BEAUTIFUL DREAM OF LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A successful New York artist, disenchanted with his hedonistic lifestyle and the contemporary art world, begins to lose touch with reality.

Debut novelist Zapata, a contemporary artist born in Spain, invites the reader to follow along as Rodrigo Concepción’s extravagant and debauched life unravels. Part critique of the contemporary art world and part philosophical inquiry into the meaning of life, this novel takes on more than it can chew. It opens in a SoHo loft with 49-year-old Rodrigo hung over and being served his daily “survival kit”—coffee, painkiller, marijuana, and omega-3 pills—by his butler while another of his employees rushes to get him ready for his flight to Art Basel. Besides his staff, Rodrigo’s friends include a billionaire and a pimp. Both attend Art Basel with him, but to Rodrigo everything—the drugs, the alcohol, the art (which is hardly mentioned), the models—is empty and disgusting. Soon after, he has an "amazing and life-changing series of dreams" in which he's in Florence and meets a woman named Carlotta, whom he calls “an ideal and a perfect creation of my mind.” The self-described “matador of art” becomes obsessed with Carlotta and his dream world, shucking his responsibilities and renouncing his old life (the “New York-life nightmare”). What follows is confusing, and it’s unclear whether or not the lack of certainty is intentional. Rodrigo’s character tells more than Zapata shows when it comes to major plot points or themes: “This was my journey, and it had been necessary for me to get to the next level of understanding” or “I’m sensitive. Thoughtful. I’m a divo sometimes, because of my fame and the fact that I can get away with almost anything, but deep inside...I am still humble and my heart is pure.” Rodrigo is unlikable and less self-aware than he’s meant to be, especially when making sweeping statements about women or cringeworthy jokes at the expense of the LGBTQ community.

A frustrating novel that strains to take on metaphysical questions and the New York art scene.

Pub Date: July 25th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5011-2925-4
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2017