A strange museum, an even stranger curator, the deceased artist who haunts him, and the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the museum founders’ child . . . The Ambrose J. and Vivian T. Seagrave Museum of 20th Century American Art is by turns a dark comedy, a ghost story, a romance, a whodunit, a family saga, and an exhibition catalog.
Through museum exhibit labels, as well as the musings of an elderly visitor wandering the galleries of this legendarily odd institution, the novel’s numerous dramas gradually unfold. We learn of the powerful Seagrave family’s loss of their daughter, of the suspicious circumstances surrounding her disappearance from their yacht during a violent storm, and of the motley group of artists (some accomplished, some atrocious) who frequented the Seagrave estate, producing eclectic bodies of work that betray the artists’ own obsessions, losses, and peculiarities. We learn about the curator’s rise to power, his love affair with a deeply troubled ghost—and when a first-time visitor to the museum discovers unexpected connections between the works on exhibit and her painful past, we are plunged into a meditation on the nature of perception, fabrication, memory, and time.
312 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN 978-1-946724-16-8 (pbk)
ISBN 978-1-946724-17-5 (e-book)
PRAISE FOR THE AMBROSE J. AND VIVIAN T. SEAGRAVE MUSEUM OF 20TH CENTURY AMERICAN ART
“A novel of ideas whose appeal goes far beyond its target audience—be it literary readers skeptical of yet another postmodern yarn or art-world enthusiasts jaded about its ivory-tower state of affairs.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Kirkpatrick shows us what the novel can do with language and structure without sacrificing an attention to the strange, varied desires of the human heart. Composed of captions to fictional art works, and interspersed with the slow-play stories of those who view these works, Kirkpatrick’s novel offers us multiple approaches to the book – as mystery, as art catalog, as a collective tale of a community of creators. Particularly revelatory and uncanny for me are the collection of doll houses, which give us miniaturized windows onto the girl whose disappearance drives us through these wonderful pages. Most highly recommended!” —Robert Glick, booknotes
I found it mildly distracting, this dissonance that arose in the genre conventions of the labels, as if some other voice, some other motive, was cropping up between the painting and the contextual information I sought. Kirkpatrick’s novel marshals such dissonance to great effect, mixing the language associated with visual art aesthetics with that of recollection and subjectivity. —Heavy Feather