BookPage Top Pick in Fiction, December 2018
Arky Levin, a 50-year-old film score composer, has reached a strange moment in his life. Recently separated from his wife under disconcerting circumstances and estranged from his only child, Arky finds himself alone in a new apartment in New York and purposefully cut off from friends. This should provide the silence he craves to write his latest film score, but instead he just feels lost. In this frame of mind, he visits the Museum of Modern Art and discovers a performance piece called The Artist Is Present, based on a real 2010 performance by renowned artist Marina Abramović. In this piece, Abramović sits for 75 days at a table as throngs of visitors stand for hours to take turns sitting across from her, still and silent.
Using Abramović’s seven steps for creative projects—awareness, resistance, submission, work, reflection, courage and the gift—as an organizational device for her novel, author Heather Rose details the performance’s almost mystical effect on Arky and an array of other characters as they return to the piece day after day. Other characters include Abramović herself, a young Ph.D. student from Amsterdam, a recent widow from the South, a radio personality and even Abramović’s late mother, each of whom brings his or her own unique experiences and responses to the piece.
Already a winner of several literary prizes in Australia and short-listed for the Australian Literary Society’s 2017 Gold Medal, The Museum of Modern Love is an engaging, multifaceted meditation on the meaning of life and art. Rose sets this exploration in the context of one man’s compelling midlife search for direction as he observes Abramović’s fleeting art, which the novel intriguingly brings back to life. This is a brilliant find for any reader who enjoys grappling with the larger questions of life and literature, and it is an excellent choice for book clubs seeking thought-provoking discussion.