I’ve read a number of books with alternate structures which I’ve taken to in varying degrees, but there’s something about the art catalog format that really worked here. Lillian Preston was a single mother who left the Midwest to carve out a following with some degree of notoriety – somewhere between Diane Arbus and Sally Mann. Preston’s journal entries are mixed with notes from her daughter, as well with critical appraisals of her artwork, which is surprisingly effective, despite no actual images in the novel. This National Book Award shortlisted title really captures the struggles of balancing work and family, no matter how exotic your occupation. It got an almost unanimous thumbs up from our attendees.
The first novel in nearly a decade from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season-a compelling and wholly original story about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood, a balancing act familiar to women of every generation.
Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, tells the life story of Lillian Preston: America's Worst Mother, America's Bravest Mother, America's Worst Photographer, or America's Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking. After discovering photography as a teenager through her high school's photo club, Lillian rejects her parents' expectations of college and marriage and moves to New York City in 1955. When a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter Samantha, Lillian is arrested, thrust into the national spotlight, and targeted with an obscenity charge. Mother and daughter's sudden notoriety changes the course of both of their lives and especially Lillian's career as she continues a life-long quest for artistic legitimacy and recognition.
Narrated by Samantha, Feast Your Eyes reads as a collection of Samantha's memories, interviews with Lillian's friends and lovers, and excerpts from Lillian's journals and letters-a collage of stories and impressions, together amounting to an astounding portrait of a mother and an artist dedicated, above all, to a vision of beauty, truth, and authenticity.