“His strokes are not strokes at all, but gashes in the flesh of this life.”
Nearly twenty years in the making, my new novel The Assassination of Gabriel Champion has been my absolute labor of love, to use an overused cliche. Which I realize doesn’t bode well for my reputation as a writer, but whaddaya gonna do? The truth is, there is no more appropriate description of the experience for me. It is a modern fable of love and loss, of violence and redemption, set in the world of art and artists, that asks the question: What can we forgive?
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Writer NONA CHILDE is in love with artists. They are the very embodiment of all her romantic notions. She has, in fact, chosen an artist as the protagonist of her novel, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, which unfolds a tale as alluringly dark as a rain-drenched European night. So when she meets DANIEL CROSS, a gifted painter who is teetering on the brink of Heathcliffian torment (an intoxicating contrivance in Nona’s mind), she is presented with the opportunity to finally complete the arc of a long-coveted torch song life. What she isn’t prepared for is a real playing out of the scourge of an artist’s soul; one far darker than any she could conjure with a pen.
The relationship that ensues between the brooding Englishman artist and the passionate young American authoress thrusts them headlong into a kaleidoscope of violent mood and memory, of euphoric, obsessive, torrential love. They begin to tear apart as irascibly as they are brought together, but not before involving one ARTHUR HUGHES DUFRESNE, a local poet with a devastating past who succeeds in complicating the tangle.
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Here’s just a little sampling. An amuse-bouche, if you will.
It had become a culture so desensitized, so lacking in the keen recognition of nuance, that what was required any longer to stir someone’s soul was movement, noise, clangs and bangs, where news outlets were consigned to showing actual video footage of head-on collisions in order for the viewer to be impacted by the pronouncement of tragedy. And where art had to stun (stir just wasn’t good enough anymore) by feats and stunts and concussion in order to be considered the legitimate New Art. Bob Flanagan hammering a nail into his penis before a live audience at a “happening” was considered art by those for whom the criteria was, singularly, that the deed be undared by anyone else.
Flanagan had been a performance artist battling cystic fibrosis and exploring themes of pain threshold, and there was certainly validity in the idea of a coping mechanism being raised to an art by the very involvement of an audience, a reaction, an impact, and a relationship. But the bottom line for Daniel was: How do you sell that?
He suddenly realized that in this drunken instant he was thinking more like an art dealer than an artist, and he surprised himself that he had, in one swift indictment, reduced his entire impetus to paint to his ability to make a living from it. Never mind the idea of art that was authentically experiential, completely stripped of the possibility of the repeat generation of dollars dealt from one collector’s hands to another’s. Commerce had always been the farthest down on Daniel’s list of reasons to create, yet today it seemed to be the first, instinctive weapon he drew in this invisible battle with an invisible foe, for his (a mere painter’s) rightful place.
The art world had been stricken with a bad case of the emperor’s new clothes, and the rest of the world was guileless and gullible, including Daniel, who had started to believe the buzz about his own work. Maybe being just a painter was the gimmick assigned to Daniel by the critical circle. And maybe in the end, he actually was starting to feel unworthy of the attention because, after all –– all he did was paint.
(end of excerpt)
Angela Carole Brown is the author of three published books, The Assassination of Gabriel Champion, The Kidney Journals: Memoirs of a Desperate Lifesaver, and Trading Fours, and has produced several albums of music and a yoga/mindfulness CD. Bindi Girl Chronicles is her writing blog. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & YouTube.