Sunday, November 11, 2007

the prime mover


I asked a writer who works in publishing if they knew of any good novels about women artists. Two, he said: Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning. He loved them both.

Well, just to clarify: biographies and autobiographies aren’t fiction. I think it is an important distinction, because women write all kinds of fiction and write it very well – some of it is the best – but how “our heroine” functions is often a far cry from how the hero does.

At present I am just looking for the creative woman in fiction - the sensitive, selfish visionary and well, Genius. As Ayn Rand might call, the Prime Mover.

Even someone in the publishing field couldn’t come up with anything.

Carrington I have not read, but I remember Birthday by Tanning very well. She has a fine way with words and I totally enjoyed it, but it might just as well be called My Life with Max Ernst. It was a Romance. - Maybe Carrington wrote that story too.

The story goes: Ernst tells Tanning that she is the creator of (the painting) Birthday, a marvelous thing. That’s the last I recall of her achievements in this narrative, while I don’t need to remind you of the output of Max Ernst. One big important painting (with tits flashing no less) is not enough. And I do not mean in the actual oeuvre, but the writing of it - how it plays out. Did she really go there? I just don’t recall it.

But who cared about that anyway? Everyone wanted to know about life with Max and that’s what we got.

14 comments:

m. said...

have you ever read //zeroes + ones// by sadie plant? it's not about visual artists, really, but it is about artists of a different nature and about the nature of discovery, which i think resonates with the creation of art...

the diary entries by ada byron lovelace are INCROYABLE (yes, daughter of mathematician annabella byron and poet lord byron AND also acknowledged as the first computer programmer EVER), and sadie's stream of consciousness writing seems to hover back and forth on the edges of fiction and nonfiction...

imho it's extremely engaging and empowering chick-lit. sorry it's just a shy bit off topic...

L.M. said...

Checkout the Virago Press from the U.K. Especially the Virago Modern Classics.

Anonymous said...

Hi Eva,
Years ago i read a book by margaret atwood called Cat's eye...about a woman artist,(painter) returning to her home town,toronto, for her retrospective. she revisits her childhood and past loves, etc. i loved it at the time, but it also destoyed me because it hit a little too close to home. Also, Spending by mary gordon but i think you already read that. LD

Howard said...

Hey Eva

Being Canadian I have to put in a vote for Margaret Atwood as well. Her novels are great.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, LD, L.M. and Howard.
I am definitely going to check out that Atwood book. Sounds like something I need .... RIGHT NOW... many thanks again...



Eva

cobaltika said...

spending - mary gordon

i found it very lovely, with a woman artist as lead character.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the visit, cobaltica.

I LOVED Spending and wrote a bit about it here.

Since then I've been on the search for more books about women artists... especially of the chick-lit fastrack, since it is such a big arena....and I have to say, Spending far outshines any of it.


Eva

Steven LaRose said...

without being cheeky regarding "any good novels about women artists" I must include:
http://evalake.blogspot.com/

m. said...

just remembered another one you might have already read...but...isn't one of the main characters in djuna barnes' //nightwood// an artist...? and it's been a long time, but i remember her being very strong...granted...in a destructive sort of way...

Anonymous said...

m.,

Wanted to say that heck, I have not read either of your suggestions... don't know the authors at all.... and have to get to the library toute suite...
Many thanks and ps:

Had a great time last night!

Eva

(Also, Steven, that was nice :)

m. said...

p.s.back. moi aussi as always!! the plant book is not exactly on target, but like i said, ada's diary entries are not to be missed. the barnes book, though, if i'm remembering correctly, is not only on topic but also a circus and a terrible joy to read...

m. said...

//wild seed// by octavia e. butler is not about an artist, but is also great chick-lit. a very strong woman who stands up to a man who wants to put her in her place at every turn. totally groovy and an easy read. a bit of sci-fi, but only in the area of genetics, and without a cold touch. sort of has a colonial fantasy feel to it. anyway. sorry i can't think of more with artists...i will have to fling through my library when i'm not in the middle of family from every angle!! mwah, m.

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Eva, try "Spending" by Mary Gordon (Scribner 1998). About a moderately successful painter who finds a male muse. I'm glad I came across your post because now I think I might read this book again. I recall enjoying it enormously.

zerozonehausfrau said...

There's a new novel: The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse by Jonathan Selwood, featuring a female artist who's been ditched by her asshole boyfriend just as she reaches a critical point in her career. It's very funny, exaggerated, and clever. Read it! It's great.