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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2010-07-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Winer's powerful and ambitious second novel (after The Color Midnight Made) is nothing less than an attempt to unearth the essence and meaning of life passed on by those who survived the Holocaust. The double suicide of art critic Daniel Lichtmann's wife and her artist lover, Benjamin Wind, whose art Daniel has championed, compels Daniel to find out what caused the two to jump from Benjamin's studio window. Daniel discovers that Benjamin's family were not Blackfoot Indians, as Benjamin had been led to believe by his embittered father, but Austrian Jews, and his grandfather, Josef Weiner, created staggeringly beautiful ketubot (Jewish marriage contracts) that earned him fame in prewar Vienna but were also responsible for his downfall. Daniel learns of the family's horrific experiences at the hands of the Nazis while trying to piece together the reasons his wife's life ended on a sidewalk next to an artist whose family tragedies are so strangely hidden. Though questions remain unanswered, Winer packs the story with intriguing ideas and metaphors so movingly articulated that it's easy to forgive him for sometimes forgetting to plug a few holes in his audacious plot. (Nov.)
Mysterious deaths lead an artist on a soul-searching journey
An art critic, Daniel Lichtmann, wants to solve a mystery. Recently, his wife fell to her death from a building in New York. Within seconds, a famous artist also fell from the same building and died, inches away from her. The artist happens to be Benjamin Wind, a Native American sculptor whose works have inspired some of Licht-mann’s most renowned essays. Why was Wind with Lichtmann’s wife, and why did they fall to their deaths? Lichtmann’s investigation takes him to the American West, to Vienna and to the distant past, and it changes the way he thinks about art, love, religion and death.
The Marriage Artist is soulful and poetic. Andrew Winer writes beautifully about Vienna in the years that preceded World War II, and he breathes life into the stories of men and women who perished in Hitler’s camps. His detailed, energetic descriptions of Jewish ink drawings are unforgettable; it’s no surprise that, before turning to fiction, Winer wrote extensively about the art world. The novel’s descriptions of thoughts and feelings are as evocative as its meditations on visual art. When a woman is troubled, “several painful involutions of thought” pass through her face. An upsetting letter causes “a chemical event” in a man’s gut, “something roily and electrical and cell-splitting.”
Winer is not only a lyrical writer, but also a challenging and passionate guide through the history of Europe’s Jewish population. His interest in the early 20th century and his fearless prose will remind readers of Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, Bloom’s Away and the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer. Like those masterworks, The Marriage Artist gives us a reason to celebrate.