I love stories about art-making, but they're not so easy to pull off. For every Topsy-Turvy, which gets thrillingly at the heart of the alchemy of collaboration and inspiration, there are a dozen movies in which creation is dully dramatized by a painter staring at a canvas or a writer chucking another crumpled piece of paper from the typewriter into the bin. Or not dramatized at all--perhaps out of fear of those cliches--and replaced by the artist's domestic turmoil or arc of fame, avoiding entirely the spark that made that life worth telling in the first place. But for someone who loves art (and by art I mean stories, paintings, movies, music, all of it), there are few stories more fascinating than ones that can get inside the--well, sorry, but that's what it is--magic of creation.
And that's what I love about Arthur Phillips's new novel, The Song Is You. It places an artist's art--in this case the pop songs written and sung by a star-in-the-making named Cait O'Dwyer--at the center of the story, and recognizes the ruthlessness by which she does the same, paring back everything else in her life that might sap nutrition from the flower she's ambitiously cultivating. And in a lovely and ingenious twist, he opens her story to include the art lover as well as the artist, drawing that fan's fascination with the moment of creation I was just talking about into the drama of creation itself. He constructs a courtship between artist and admirer that's intricate, surprising, and true to the demands of both love and art. (You can read my review of The Song Is You, which tries to say the same thing in different--probably better--words, on our Best of April page.)
And speaking of artists and admirers, we're fortunate enough to have Arthur Phillips himself sitting in on Omnivoracious this week, in what I believe is his first full-fledged blogging outing. (He's one of those strange throwbacks who focuses instead on writing books. Thank goodness.) He did share a "literary" playlist (I love "My Attorney Bernie"!) with Paper Cuts recently, and will make another music-related appearance tomorrow in Largehearted Boy's Book Notes series, but we have him here all week, a scenario he rather vividly dramatizes, novelist that he is, in his first post, which I'll put up right after I post this one. The Song Is You is his fourth novel, after his deservedly acclaimed debut, Prague, and two inventive investigations of the past, The Egyptologist and Angelica. You'll be able to find all his posts this week here. Feel free to shout requests up to the bandstand. --Tom