The stupendous talent of an otherwise wasted illustrator pushes him to the edge of madness and leads to the creation of an original work by a master who has been dead for centuries.
Nobody mixes art, sex, drugs and wit quite like Gruber (The Book of Air and Shadows, 2007, etc.). Here he looks at representational painting, the creative imperative, forgery and the love of children, and the result is again irresistible. Chaz Wilmot, gifted artistic hack, child of a gifted artistic hack, hands a CD to his old Columbia classmate and one-time close friend and asks him to give it a play. It’s the narrative of Wilmot’s adventures as the artist Diego Velásquez, a trip that began with the ingestion of an experimental hallucinogen administered by yet another old Columbia classmate, now a doctor. The drug sends Wilmot into the skin of the little boy who would grow up to be perhaps the most gifted painter of all time. These intensely interesting journeys are not quite relaxing for Wilmot. In ways they are a reproach for the life he has led, refusing to create the art his ex-wife Lotte, now a small-time gallery owner, still urges him to make. (If he would just cut loose and paint, he could get proper medical care for his sick young son.) The aftereffect of the drug is that he can and does paint, possibly better than ever, concentrating as never before. But those Velásquez trips are increasingly intriguing: He’s in Renaissance Madrid painting the king and then back in the present, still painting better than anyone ever has. So well, in fact, that he gains the interest of those in the rich and frightening world of forgers. Alas, the drug also seems to be wiping out his past.
Fast, frightening and, as usual, richly imagined.