The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the Last Age of the Exotic

Jamie James. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-16335-8
In this exciting book, novelist and critic James (The Snake Charmer) examines six artists (and many interesting secondary figures) whose travels allowed them to find inspiration and belonging far from their homelands in locations across the globe. James primarily focuses on the painter Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), who left Paris to settle in Tahiti; Raden Saleh (1814–1880), a Javanese painter who traveled across Europe; and French poet and doctor Victor Segalen (1878–1919), for whom China became a second home. Also dominant are Isabelle Eberhardt (1877–1904), a Swiss writer who emigrated to French Algeria dressed as a man; Walter Spies (1895–1942), a painter nearly forgotten in modern Germany, who moved to Bali; and the American filmmaker Maya Deren (1917–1961), who immersed herself in voodoo culture in Haiti. In addition to analyzing his subjects’ art, James details their rich lives, mining their published works, personal archives, journals, and letters, and often revealing serendipitous connections between the artists. Many of his subjects refused to conform to the social norms of their birthplaces, namely monogamy and heterosexuality, and the description of these struggles is illuminating. James also includes his own perspective, reflecting on his travels through Asia, South America, and Europe, and his permanent relocation to Bali, where he has witnessed firsthand the effects of globalization. This well-written text is a sharp, thought-provoking contribution to the ongoing conversation about transculturation. Illus. Agent: Katina Matson, Brockman Inc. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 04/04/2016
Release date: 08/09/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-374-71132-0
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