"Optic Nerve" by Maria Gainza

By Gainza, Maria

Reviewed by Julia

ISBN 9781948226165

I have always loved stumbling across slices of art history within the novels I read; I recall in particular the delight of discovering Steve Martin's scholarly satire "An Object of Beauty", which follows a young woman's ascension through Sotheby's and the art world of New York (complete with color images throughout of all paintings mentioned!).  Most recently, I devoured a new work of auto-fiction (autobiographical fiction), "Optic Nerve" by Maria Gainza, who is better known as an Argentine journalist and art critic.  Author Gainza circles in on her personal life in Buenos Aires, where family, marriage, memory, and her work as an art specialist among buyers, galleries, friends and artists set the scene. The book is composed of a blending of these representations of her life with remarkably realistic recreations of moments in the lives of famous artists.  Larger than life figures such as Rousseau, Michelangelo, Fujita, Courbet, Rothko, and Toulouse-Latrece each shine in this greater perspective, where a reader is given poetic broad strokes through important movers and shakers in the history of art.  I was both mesmerized by anecdotes of which I was previously unaware, and chuckled hard with delight and dismay through the ever so unpredictable accomplishments and foibles of all individuals, including the author herself.  Highly recommended for the literate art buff, as well as lovers of books that bring ever so subtle but memorable glimpses into a previously unknown creative life.

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