The Icon Prize

I'm truly honored to have had The Unfastened Heart chosen as the inaugural selection of The Icon Prize. Thank you to Catherine McFarlane, Helen Hanne, and the Icon committee for choosing the novel to launch this award. And thank you to the artists the world over who have responded with such abiding gifts and enthusiasm to Icon's call for art. Whether from the U.S., continental Europe, Canada, Australia, South America, New Zealand, Africa, the UK, Sri Lanka, India, the Middle East or Africa -- you have humbled me by the sharing of your generous talents. May 2011 shine a bright light on your wonderful works!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Art That Conspires

What elevates a book cover to the ranks of the truly memorable?  A sense of beauty, mystery, contrast, revelation?  I find myself drawn toward covers that convey a palpable harmony with the narrative itself, as if the visual and the fictional have joined hands in artistic collusion, somewhere in the bookstore dark.

What is it about cover art that compels you to pick up the book?  Or allows you to pass it by?  I'd be more than intrigued to hear your comments.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Singing the Past

The wonderful American composer, Samuel Barber, created the music for Knoxville: Summer of 1915 as a tribute to the opening pages of novelist James Agee's A Death in the Family.  If you haven't yet experienced them together, they're a revelation.  The music serves as exquisite echo to the book's sensitive and idyllic narrative.  Cherished and melancholy, it sings a full-hearted portrayal of a beloved American childhood.  How is it possible to blur the lines between symphony and literature so thoroughly?  How can music convey the resplendent arc of a sprinkler on the lawn of one's childhood home, now lost to time?  It's a mystery.  A resonant one.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Art Inspires Art

The Unfastened Heart began with a work of art I bought at an out-of-the-way auction.  I spent more than I could afford on a lithograph of Marc Chagall's "Bella," which is a thoroughly magical depiction of Chagall's wife as a bride -- angels and birds and candles and flowers all surrounding a beautiful, gentle-eyed woman.  I got the sense of goodness and abundance emanating from Bella, rising up from her very skin, and my character, Mariela, is in her own way based on her portrait.

What struck me about the painting more than anything else was that Marc Chagall loved his wife with a love that was transcendent of an earthly view.  To him, she was clearly holy, the central blessing of his life.  And I wanted my work to capture the remarkable reverence that a man can have for the woman he loves.

I didn't realize until I was nearly halfway through the novel that, when looked at in a certain way, Bella could be seen to be holding an infant in her arms -- an astonishing revelation to me since I was expecting a baby at the time, and so, too, was the young woman I was writing about.  It was one of those very rare instances in which art becomes life and life becomes art.  My work took on the same quality of abundance and wonder that surrounded Bella in all her silent splendor.  When I sat down to write, the words poured themselves onto the page.  Chagall was somehow whispering in my ear.

I hope The Unfastened Heart will inspire other artists in turn.  I've heard from several of you that you're in the process of reading the novel, turning to your oil paints, pastels, photography, etc.  It's lovely to imagine the art as a river that travels through us and on to the next artist, who has his or her own unique vision to convey in response to the work that came before.  Art inspires art.  And artists inspire community.  Thanks to you for being part of this one.