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The Resource The center of the world, by Thomas Van Essen

The center of the world, by Thomas Van Essen

Label
The center of the world
Title
The center of the world
Statement of responsibility
by Thomas Van Essen
Creator
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Tone
Writing style
Review
  • The main character in Van Essen’s ambitious debut novel is the lost titular painting by renowned British artist J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). The big theme is among the biggest: the power of art. The story is about Turner and his struggle to paint the picture in question, and its reception. It scandalizes some and otherwise changes the lives of others. It is either a masterpiece or erotic trash, sinful or uplifting. The novel moves among several points of view, alternating between the near-present and the mid-nineteenth century. We meet Turner himself; his patron, Lord Egremont, at his massive house, Petworth; and the putative Helen Elizabeth Spenser. An art critic, Charles Grant, tells of life at Petworth and the painting’s difficult birth. The contemporary story is told by art-dealer Henry Leiden of Princeton, New Jersey, whose drab suburban life is changed when he discovers the painting. His motives are decidedly mixed since he wants the painting for himself, and he provides this tale’s suspense. -- Autrey, Michael (Reviewed 05-01-2013) (Booklist, vol 109, number 17, p69)
  • Van Essen’s debut novel departs from the recent real-life discovery of maritime landscapist J.M.W. Turner’s erotica to trace a fictional portrait by the painter of a scantily clad Helen of Troy awaiting Paris. Van Essen begins with art critic John Ruskin’s legendary destruction of Turner’s scandalous output before flashing back to the portrait’s origins in an after-dinner conversation between Turner and his patron, Lord Egremont. Flash forward to modern-day art dealer Arthur Bryce as he pursues the once-infamous, now-invaluable painting. Another flashback, to the early 20th century, finds wealthy American Cornelius Rhinebeck transporting the painting of Helen from England to his Adirondack lodge, where it remains hidden until middle-aged Henry Leiden encounters it while sorting through his deceased father’s belongings. All who meet Turner’s Helen see simultaneously truth, beauty, and the impetus for sin. With the painting’s journey, newcomer Van Essen demonstrates a flair for dialogue and an appreciation for how art moves the human heart. Agent: Chris Calhoun, the Chris Calhoun Agency. (June) --Staff (Reviewed February 4, 2013) (Publishers Weekly, vol 260, issue 05, p)
  • /* Starred Review */ A terrific debut novel about the mystical and erotic power of art. At the center of the center, as it were, is a hypothetical painting by the 19th-century artist J. M. W. Turner, one in which he brings all his genius to bear. The title of this painting is "The Center of the World," and it features an astonishingly sensual portrait of Helen of Troy and Paris, with whom Helen eloped. The picture is so scandalous to 19th-century mores that it's hidden away and believed to have been burned, but it turns up in 2003, of all places in a barn in the Adirondacks. It's a testament to Van Essen's control that he makes this scenario plausible, for it turns out that Cornelius Rhinebeck, the owner of a neighboring estate, was a rich captain of industry who, in the early-20th century, amassed a collection of European art, some of it acquired through questionable channels. Henry Leiden, who finds the painting, desultorily heads a small foundation and feels his life, and especially his relationship with his wife, is at an impasse, but the painting exerts an almost otherworldly influence on him. Van Essen creates a complicated narrative structure involving Leiden, Charles Grant (who posed for Paris when Turner was engaged in the painting at Petworth, the estate of the Third Earl of Egremont), Mrs. Spencer (Egremont's mistress and the model for Helen) and the mysterious Mr. Bryce, head of a firm that arranges art sales and an aesthete who desperately wants to track down the elusive Turner painting. Actually, this masterpiece winds up turning everyone who comes in contact with it into an aesthete--and it also seems to have an almost miraculous power as an aphrodisiac. Van Essen writes gracefully and makes accessible the issue of art as transcendence.(Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2013)
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
10182679
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorDate
1952-
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Essen, Thomas Van
Dewey number
813/.6
Index
no index present
LC call number
PS3605.S6757
LC item number
C46 2013
Literary form
fiction
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Turner, J. M. W.
  • Art
Label
The center of the world, by Thomas Van Essen
Instantiates
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
ocn829445882
Extent
pages cm
Isbn
9781590515495
Lccn
2013003848
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
System control number
(OCoLC)829445882
Label
The center of the world, by Thomas Van Essen
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
ocn829445882
Extent
pages cm
Isbn
9781590515495
Lccn
2013003848
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
System control number
(OCoLC)829445882

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