cover image The Prize

The Prize

Jill Bialosky. Counterpoint, $25 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61902-570-7

In this luminous behind-the-scenes view of the art world, the poet, novelist, and memoirist Bialosky (History of a Suicide) explores the complicated terrain of relationships, as well as the inspiration behind creativity and the roles commercialism and politics play in artistic expression. Manhattan art dealer Edward Darby, who obsessively compares himself to his father (a Romantic poetry scholar whose life imploded years ago), seeks to navigate the precarious balance between passion for his work and the demands of a wife and daughter. Though it’s not an unusual struggle, the author stacks the odds against Darby, with a brilliant father who emotionally and physically derailed when Darby was a young man, and Darby’s lingering guilt over his first wife, who died in an accident years ago. Added to the mix is Agnes Murray, a temperamental up-and-coming artist whom Darby takes under his wing. A prestigious artist’s prize raises the stakes for Agnes, as does an affair and an aggressive professional rival, forcing Darby to examine his heart in a way he never has before—in terms of his marriage, his choice of profession, and the secrets he has kept all his life. One expects a poet’s prose to soar in fiction, and the author does not disappoint, crafting her own work of art with her evocative, fresh descriptions and her careful observations of how artists transform inspiration into their work. (Sept.)