Friday, August 21, 2009

Painting from Life by Anne Brooke

TITLE: Painting from Life
AUTHOR: Anne Brooke
PUBLISHER: Eternal Press
LENGTH: Short story (roughly 5k)
GENRE: Mainstream drama
COST: $2.50

During a trip to try and reconnect with his wife, a painter discovers a new muse, in the guise of an elderly man on the beach…

More emotions are evoked in this short, haunting story than many longer works I’ve read in recent months. It gets classified as a love story, or a GLBT piece in many places I’ve seen it discussed, but I’m reluctant to so easily define it. The relationship between the painter and Peter, the elderly man, isn’t nearly that cut and dry.

The narrator, a young man who remains unnamed as the story is told in first person, presents at the top of the story as desperate to save his three-year marriage. There are a lot of brewing emotions just packed within that relationship. His wife is the primary earner, and resents her husband’s lack of contributions. She’s jealous of the time and energy he devotes to his art. She’s hungry for contact, and the list goes on. There’s certainly nothing easy about it, and then, when he spies Peter on the beach and his muse is infused as it hasn’t been in years, the situation only gets worse.

But just as his relationship with his wife isn’t simple, neither is his relationship with Peter. It grows from a simple agreement of a single sitting to something far more complex. Nothing sexual ever occurs, but the narrator finds energy and passion in his work with Peter as he never has before. Peter, in turn, cannot bring himself to characterize their relationship as anything familial (when asked if he trusts the narrator, Peter responds with, “Like a son…No, better than a son.”). The give and take between the two satisfies needs in both of them. There is some dark subtext, however, suggesting that the narrator (as artist) is draining away Peter’s life (as muse), but in all honesty, it didn’t overshadow the relationship as I read it. It felt far more symbiotic to me, as Peter is already elderly when they meet. Each is hungry for what the other offers. Peter's health might be failing as the narrator continues to work, but the paintings will give him an immortality he wouldn't have otherwise had if they'd never met in the first place.

The complexity of the relationships is served amazingly well by the lyrical, edgy prose. It offers just the right amount of clear, original detail to paint a picture with words, without getting excessive or too artsy, and intrigues me into pursuing more of the author’s work. Strong, original voices are like gold. This one pays off.


10/10 – Clean, lyrically edgy prose


8/10 – Strong, vivid personalities


7/10 – Some ambiguity allows the reader to extrapolate exactly what he/she needs from it

Entertainment value

8/10 – Haunting

World building

9/10 – The detail of the seaside crackles



1 comment:

Anne Brooke said...

Goodness, thank you so much - I'm so glad you enjoyed the story. It's made my day!


All good wishes

Anne B