Miles’ debut novel delivers a richly detailed love story of cultural opposites in 1960s Brooklyn, N.Y.
Amid the racial, sexual and artistic upheavals of the ’60s, book-smart Jewish 25-year-old Sara Gott falls for street-smart Gavilan, a 19-year-old Hispanic black man who dreams of conquering the modern art world. Sara and Gavilan’s union is portrayed as unhealthy for both of them: “She loved G as much as she could ever love. And yet together they formed a kind of monster that could only devour itself.” Yet this damaged couple shares a deep love of art, as shown in Sara’s self-reflective ramblings and Gavilan’s thoughts as he “immerses” himself in classic paintings to converse with painters Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Paul Gauguin. The couple are bound by the erotic nature of their relationship, but also by their respective needs for acceptance. Gavilan wants to remain connected to his culture, but Sara is less anchored to hers, often distancing herself from her mother and her religion. Author Miles skillfully uses Gavilan’s “conversations” with European masters to reveal the artist’s search for truth, yet underscores the disconnect between his dream of becoming a world-famous artist and his lack of focus and drive. However, when Gavilan becomes “America’s most controversial artist” by applying “scat art” to religious artifacts, the author oddly skims over how the artist rose to such prominence. That said, Miles adroitly reveals Sara’s fears, foibles and hang-ups through Sara’s self-doubting soliloquies and psychiatric sessions. Miles and Selma Eisenstadt add several simple but engaging illustrations.
A well-crafted and satisfying work about art and relationships.