The Beholder: A Novel Farber, Thomas
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Product description A sophisticated, taboo-breaking novel of the sexual obsession of an older man and a young married woman, in the long-awaited return of an acclaimed novelist. "Once upon a time, her aunt calls . . . Can he meet with the niece?" He is a writer, middle-aged, thoughtful, engaged in a project that involves observing and describing the female form. The niece is young, married, and beautiful, an art historian who wants to write. They have much in common, the aunt suggests. The light acquaintance soon turns darkly erotic. The writer recounts an increasingly charged series of trysts in which he and the young woman create a heady otherworld, where there are no husbands and no limits, where uninhibited lovers may discard the deepest taboos. No longer merely subjects for conversation, the passions shared by the writer and the young woman -- for art, storytelling, and experience -- fuel a transgressive vision of love that cannot, in the end, compete with the demands of the ordered world. Written in taut, hypnotic prose, The Beholder plumbs the seductive depths of obsession and the paradoxes of the human heart. In his first novel in fifteen years, Thomas Farber has delivered a rapturous evocation of erotic love. From Publishers Weekly After a long silence, Farber (A Lover's Question; Curves of Pursuit) turns out a new novel, about a middle-aged writer's affair with a beautiful, sexy, married young art history scholar, offering a substantial investigation of illicit pleasures. Having first met informally to discuss a manuscript, the writer and the student fall deeply in lust after several brief, clandestine encounters. The student tells her dull, invisible husband that she is at her aunt's house, and the lovers "all the pleasures prove" with great abandon. They even take Polaroids of each other, in increasingly erotic poses, all elegantly described in the book's pages, a smart metaphor for their awareness of their own violation and the pleasure they take in it. Of course, the relationship moves beyond sex, as the lovers become well versed in each other's pasts. The writer must also come to terms with a heart condition, a sign that his body could age beyond his capacity to love. Farber's dialogue-heavy style, with its brief episodes, works perfectly in concert with the dance of flesh that drives this book like a well-paced film. The story itself is not new, and there are some unbelievable crannies here, such as the writer's project, a verbal study of nude models who come to his apartment to pose for him, or his decision to think of his lover as his daughter, a device reiterated throughout the second half of the book without any kind of substantial reckoning, even though it is the book's most controversial element. Nevertheless, Farber knows the heart, the groin and the conscience equally well, and this novel is an impressive display of his wisdom. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. From Library Journal The author of a previous novel and four short story collections (e.g., Who Wrote the Book of Love?), Farber here presents the tale of a middle-aged writer and a young married woman who enter into an affair. The characters then spend the bulk of the novel either looking to get out or finding reasons to continue, with sex being the oft-traveled road to either salvation or destruction. Much less of a taboo-breaking novel than the publisher claims (unless you find photographing one's sexual activity exceedingly kinky), Farber's story is content to languish in literary allusion rather than mine the admittedly difficult (and more earthly) territory of obsession and passion. Thoughtful and educated as they are, the couple (who refer to each other as "Father" and "Baby"), see themselves as tragic or heroic literary figures, connecting through the art they love and admire. These self-obsessed lovers are unfortunately the only two on stage here; it would not have been necessary to bring an outraged husband or some colorful secondary characters into such a story, but it might have provided some relief from all that erudition and self-importance. By the time the Polaroids start popping out, it's more than likely that confused readers will wonder if they're not as knowing as the author or if in fact there isn't less here than meets the eye. Not recommended. Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. From Booklist A middle-aged, single writer and a twentysomething married art historian embark on a tempestuous, rapturous, and incendiary love affair, as disturbing in its inherent duplicity as it is unsavory in its irrepressible carnality. We know him only as "the writer," and though it is through his presumptive and sardonic eyes that we view the relationship, it is she who seems to be in control. Teasing, taunting, tantalizing, she's a vixen who sets out to conquer before she becomes the vanquished. The difference in their ages both allures and amuses the lovers. They assign themselves familial roles: he is her "father"; she his "daughter" or "baby," a Nabokovian mantle that morphs the affair into the pseudo-incestuous realm of the taboo. Documenting their lovemaking with a handheld Polaroid, such brazen evidence of their couplings fuels their salacious narcissism: Who do you desire more, me or yourself? Farber limns the perils of Eros with terse, minimalist prose that mordantly conveys the raw, emotive tension of this doomed relationship. Carol Haggas Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved Review ". . . a beautiful feeling of everything coming together in space and time -- and yes, even in a kind of love." --Anatole Broyard, The New York Times About the Author Thomas Farber is the author of four works of nonfiction and four collections of short stories, as well as a novel, Curves of Pursuit. He has written for the San Francisco Chronicle. The recipient of numerous grants, Farber teaches creative writing at the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in San Francisco.