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THE PASSION DREAM BOOK by Whitney Otto

THE PASSION DREAM BOOK

By Whitney Otto

Pub Date: May 7th, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-017824-8
Publisher: HarperCollins

 Otto (Now You See Her, 1994, etc.) follows a pair of lovers as they migrate through several of the 20th-century's most exotic artistic movements. First, though, there's a prelude in Renaissance Florence: 13- year-old Guilietta Marcel dresses like a boy and is hired to spy on Michelangelo while he's sculpting David. Guilietta is the daughter of a gentle, eccentric artist who's training her to paint; the girl lusts after Michelangelo at the same time as her own artistic vision is developing. Cut to Los Angeles, 1918. Romy March (a descendent of Guilietta's) exchanges gibes with Augustine, a young black man at work with a camera in a public park. Romy's father is skeptical of her inchoate plan to devote her life to some unspecified art. Although only a couple of years older, Augustine already has a gig: He prints tiny photographic images on trendsetters' skin. Romy secures a gofer job at a movie studio, where she again encounters Augustine: The racial mores of the time dictate that the two fall for each other only in private. The lovers take the train east and open a photography studio in Harlem. Augustine is much sought after, doing portraits of many of the greats of the Harlem Renaissance, while Romy's work languishes. And then an ex-lover of Augustine's shows up, his interest is rekindled, and Romy departs for Paris. She becomes Man Ray's assistant-mistress and parties with the art crowd--until Augustine appears. In spite of their grand passion, she keeps moving, swooping in on Bloomsbury-era London and hitting her stride as a photographer before heading to San Francisco, where the couple settle down just as the Beat scene is born. Otto packs in catchy details about art and photography, and lots of stylish parties and clever flirting. Despite the splashy backdrops, though, the central love story is flat and unengaging. Better as a grand tour than as a celebration of art and love. ($75,000 ad/promo; author tour)