Seeing Soriah by Ivan Jenson (Kindle only, pub date 4/25/12)
“All art is dead. It only lives in our imagination, we the living.”
From artist, poet, and novelist Ivan Jenson comes a psychological thriller about revenge and family secrets.
Seeing Soriah is a story about a man haunted by the sins of his father. Jordan is an art dealer who left his life in New York behind to be with his elderly father in Michigan. His father, Harold, is an artist, and Jordan is pooling all his efforts into opening a retrospective exhibit of his father’s art. Shortly before the defining moment in his career, Harold confides in his son that he has been seeing a woman who resembles his dead first wife. Knowing that his father has a history of mental illness, Jordan wonders if his father is experiencing a mental break…until he starts seeing the same woman. This event causes Jordan to dig into his family’s past, and uncover a secret his father has kept hidden for fifty years.
Last summer I reviewed Jenson’s first novel Dead Artist. And while I found that book to be enjoyable, I was much more impressed by this book. Seeing Soriah is suspenseful and disturbing, and a more mature and multi-layered story than Dead Artist. It’s a book about secrets and lies, with a touch of satire thrown in. While the main plot by itself is quite interesting, what I enjoyed even more was the commentary about art and the life of an artist. Toward the end of the book, Jordan and his father disagree about whether an artist’s life is worth more than the art he creates. It’s a compelling question that stayed with me long after I had finished reading the book.
Seeing Soriah is an excellent follow-up to Dead Artist, and a compact but very interesting novel. Great for anyone who’s into indie authors and stories that are a little out of the ordinary.
Dead Artist by Ivan Jenson (eBook format only, pub date 6/24/11)
“But Milo had sacrificed all of that…the comfort of a body in bed, of a hand holding his hand, of home cooked dinners smoking on the stove. All in the hopes that one day that champagne wave of financial riches might crash over him.”
It’s a long-accepted idea that artists’ lives are more complicated than those of average people. Neuroses and self-consciousness are often thought to be the price for being creative. And in this inventive novel, author Ivan Jenson takes this idea to a whole new level. Jenson himself is a successful artist and poet; his art has sold at Christie’s and has been featured in Art in America.
Meet Milo Sonas, a once-successful New York City pop artist, famous for selling his works out on the street. After a nervous breakdown, Milo finds himself at middle age living in a run-down hotel in Michigan, not painting, and supposedly doomed to obscurity. Among his many personal issues are his dysfunctional family, his propensity for dating much younger women, and the fact that he sees and talks to dead artists, specifically Picasso and Van Gogh. Milo’s life seems to turn a corner when a generous benefactor wants to restart his art career. But his mother’s illness and reunion with his resentful brother Ray make him unsure of the path he thinks his life should take.
This is an edgy and interesting book, written in a stream-of-consciousness style that may be an acquired taste for some readers, but fully matches the tone of the story. Milo is a relatable character, someone who feels adrift in life, wondering if he should give in to the pressure to get married, settle down, etc. But in the end he shows us that not all who wander are lost. The strained relationship between Milo and Ray adds a lot of depth to the story, and the issue of parental favoritism is one that I can relate to personally, as I’m sure many other people can as well.
With its quirky characters and dry humor, Dead Artist is definitely worth checking out. It’s cleverly written and is sure to please those who are looking for a unique kind of story.
The Blue Light Project by Timothy Taylor (2011)
I have a tremendous nerd crush on Werner Herzog. For anyone who may not be familiar with him, he’s an award-winning German filmmaker who has been making films for over 40 years. Seriously, Netflix his movies. They’re amazing. Not only does he make interesting movies, but he has fascinating insights on life and the world around us. For example:
“If you switch on television it’s just ridiculous and it’s destructive. It kills us. And talk shows will kill us. They kill our language. So we have to declare holy war against what we see every single day on television. We need adequate images, or we’ll go the way of the dinosaurs.”
The Blue Light Project is a novel inspired by this Herzog quote. It’s a unique story about people who overcome their personal struggles, and of the power of human creativity and expression. It’s a slow-paced story that gradually builds to its climax, taking the reader on the spiritual journey of the three main characters. Eve is a former Olympic athlete, searching almost obsessively for her missing brother. Rabbit is an idealistic street artist, working on his “big project,” who left a lucrative job after experiencing a moral crisis. And Thom is a once-respected journalist, reduced to interviewing celebrities after a scandal cost him his nomination for a Pulitzer prize. Their three paths are united after an unknown assailant storms a television studio during a taping of a talent program and takes the contestants hostage.
It’s a slow-starting story with a touch of satire, seemingly nebulous and abstract, that gradually comes into focus as the details are unveiled one at a time. Taylor’s writing style contains little dialog but beautifully flowing descriptive prose. The ending is uplifting, and truly manages to capture the sentiment of Herzog’s quote on a grand scale.
This book take a little time to get into, but is a very rewarding read. A truly original and clever concept. It’s nothing if not thought-provoking, and is sure to inspire the artist in all of us.