The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories
By Valerie Martin
(Vintage, Paperback, 9781400095506, 224pp.)
Publication Date: May 9, 2006
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In this vital and heartbreaking collection of stories, Valerie Martin, the bestselling author of Mary Reilly and the internationally acclaimed Property, turns an unflinching eye upon artists—driven and blocked, desired and detested, infamous and sublime, as they struggle beneath the tyranny of Art to reconcile their audience with their muse.
A painter who owes his small success to a man he despises, discovers that his passivity has cost him the love that might have set him free. A writer of modest talents encounters the old love who once betrayed him; now she repels him, yet the unfinished novel she leaves in his hands may surpass anything he could ever produce himself. An American poet in Rome finds herself forced to choose between her lover and a world so alien it takes her voice away. A print maker, who has reached a certain age, enters so deeply into the magical world of her imagination that she can never find her way back. In captivating, luminous prose, Martin explores the trials and rewards of human relationships and creative endeavor with all the ease and insight of a writer at the top of her form.
Valerie Martin is the author of two collections of short fiction and seven novels, including Italian Fever, The Great Divorce, Mary Reilly, and Property, which won the Orange Prize for Fiction; and Salvation, a biography of St. Francis of Assisi. A native of New Orleans, Martin now lives in Millbrook, New York.
“[T]he cool assurance of Martin's voice, and her capacity to say surprising things about ordinary feelings-envy, rage, and despair figure prominently-makes the collection a triumph.” —The New Yorker
“Beautiful, heartbreaking stories.” —New York Times Book Review
“Each piece in this suspenseful and piercingly acute collection traces an artist's struggles for excellence and public acclaim, and how those struggles crosscut with relationships that support and undo art…. Compulsively readable and impressively perceptive, Martin's stories put art's dark compromises in sharp relief.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Martin's prose throughout the book has a cut-glass clarity, a drolly macabre humor, and a feline suppleness of insight, with perspectives ever shifting and characters always surprising you. The various settings-Brooklyn, Rome and especially Martin's native New Orleans-play key roles too, cinching the pleasure to be had from these tales.” —Seattle Times
“[A] sharp, finely crafted collection…. At once psychologically insightful and playful, Martin here strips away the romantic notions of the artist and satirizes the art world…. [T]hese intriguing stories catch us off guard and startle us with unexpected shifts and turns of the artist's psyche.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
“What Martin shows us about the way artists behave isn't pretty, but the quiet artistry evident on every page of The Unfinished Novel is nothing less than awe-inspiring.” —Salon
“An enrapturing and ruthless storyteller, Valerie Martin possesses a predator's ability to mesmerize her prey…. These finely calibrated and bracing stories provide a welcome antidote to the sentimentality and half-baked spirituality that are often draped over art like bunting on a bomb. Martin's tales of betrayal, obsession, connivance and failure put the firepower back into art.” —Chicago Tribune
“[Martin's] writing is fierce and dead-on, skewering the pretensions and delusions of her characters-artists, writers, dancers, actors-but not without sympathy for their needs, their struggles.” —The New Orleans Times-Picayune
“Martin's diamond-sharp sentences retain their cool even in the heat of battle.” —San Francisco Chronicle