Rosner’s breathy, lightweight second novel (The Speed of Light, 2001) concerns a German artist and his Israeli model.
Both Danzig, a 58-year-old painter who’s been blocked for years, and Merav, who poses for his class at the San Francisco Art Institute, have suffered traumas. Danzig, the son of Nazis, carries the weight of shame that drove him to leave Germany for years before. He made a splash as an artist in California in the early 1980s, but at present, he only teaches and won’t paint. The considerably younger Merav left Israel after Arab-Jewish violence killed her closest friend, Yossi. While posing for Danzig’s life-drawing class, she is chillingly reminded of the story of her grandmother, Esther, discovered hiding in a barn during WWII but spared by a German soldier overwhelmed by her beauty. (Parallels between the two stories are drawn throughout.) Taken by Merav’s good looks, Danzig convinces her to come to his Marin County barn so he can paint her. Instead of bedding her instantly, as he has done with other models (with disastrous consequences), he allows Merav to guide him as his muse. (“He wants her, but not in the flesh.”) Plenty of wispy flashbacks attempt to give these characters some weight: the 1953 suicide of Danzig’s older sister Margot, who was devastated after learning the truth about their parents; Danzig’s previous affairs with models Andrea and Susan; teenaged Merav’s life on a kibbutz; Merav’s switch from artist to model and her brief marriage to a photographer. The author strains to show her characters correcting the historical record.
Sexy premise, mushy plot.