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Feast Your Eyes
Cover of Feast Your Eyes
Feast Your Eyes
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019

2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Finalist

2019 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

2020 Chautauqua Prize Finalist

"A daringly inventive parable of female creativity and motherhood" (O, The Oprah Magazine) from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season, about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood—a balancing act familiar to women of every generation.
Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, tells the life story of Lillian Preston: "America's Worst Mother, America's Bravest Mother, America's Worst Photographer, or America's Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking." After discovering photography as a teenager through her high school's photo club, Lillian rejects her parents' expectations of college and marriage and moves to New York City in 1955. When a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter Samantha, Lillian is arrested, thrust into the national spotlight, and targeted with an obscenity charge. Mother and daughter's sudden notoriety changes the course of both of their lives, and especially Lillian's career as she continues a life-long quest for artistic legitimacy and recognition.

"A searching consideration of the way that the identities and perceptions of a female artist shift over time" (The New Yorker), Feast Your Eyes shares Samantha's memories, interviews with Lillian's friends and lovers, and excerpts from Lillian's journals and letters—a collage of stories and impressions, together amounting to an astounding portrait of a mother and an artist dedicated, above all, to a vision of beauty, truth, and authenticity. Myla Goldberg has gifted us with "a mother-daughter story, an art-monster story, and an exciting structural gambit" (Lit Hub)—and, in the end, "a universal and profound story of love and loss" (New York Newsday).
ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019

2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Finalist

2019 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist

2020 Chautauqua Prize Finalist

"A daringly inventive parable of female creativity and motherhood" (O, The Oprah Magazine) from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season, about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood—a balancing act familiar to women of every generation.
Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, tells the life story of Lillian Preston: "America's Worst Mother, America's Bravest Mother, America's Worst Photographer, or America's Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking." After discovering photography as a teenager through her high school's photo club, Lillian rejects her parents' expectations of college and marriage and moves to New York City in 1955. When a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter Samantha, Lillian is arrested, thrust into the national spotlight, and targeted with an obscenity charge. Mother and daughter's sudden notoriety changes the course of both of their lives, and especially Lillian's career as she continues a life-long quest for artistic legitimacy and recognition.

"A searching consideration of the way that the identities and perceptions of a female artist shift over time" (The New Yorker), Feast Your Eyes shares Samantha's memories, interviews with Lillian's friends and lovers, and excerpts from Lillian's journals and letters—a collage of stories and impressions, together amounting to an astounding portrait of a mother and an artist dedicated, above all, to a vision of beauty, truth, and authenticity. Myla Goldberg has gifted us with "a mother-daughter story, an art-monster story, and an exciting structural gambit" (Lit Hub)—and, in the end, "a universal and profound story of love and loss" (New York Newsday).
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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Myla Goldberg is the bestselling author of Feast Your Eyes, The False Friend, Wickett's Remedy, and Bee Season, which was a New York Times Notable Book, a winner of the Borders New Voices Prize, a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award, and was adapted to film and widely translated.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    November 15, 2018

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 1, 2019
    Goldberg (The False Friend, 2010, etc.) writes the fictional biography of a female photographer whose career is sidetracked by controversy surrounding intimate pictures of her young daughter.The character Lillian Preston may initially remind readers of Sally Mann, whose photographs of her children created debate in the early 1990s. But Lillian's story, which takes place primarily in the 1950s through 1970s, is singularly her own. After falling in love with photography at her Cleveland high school, Lillian dismays her doting but conventional parents by moving to New York City, lovingly portrayed in all its gritty glamour, to pursue her dream. For Lillian, photography is all-consuming, her camera an extension of her arm. But once Samantha is born, the result of a brief affair, Lillian's artistic ambition becomes entangled with fierce mother-love. Quiet, easily ignored, Lillian's forte is shooting unposed street scenes. Her obvious genius brings her critical notice (if no money) in the NYC art world until an avant-garde gallery owner is charged with "pandering obscenity" by exhibiting photographs of 6-year-old Samantha in her underwear, one taken while Lillian was recovering from an abortion and unable to go outside. Neither Lillian's career nor Samantha's childhood recovers--a case of every mom's fear of screwing up writ large. The novel is structured as the catalog Samantha puts together for a retrospective of Lillian's work at the Modern Museum of Art years after her death. Photograph by photograph, Samantha sets the scene through her memories of her deeply complicated relationship with her mother, recorded interviews with people who knew Lillian, letters from Lillian to others, and Lillian's private journal. The collage of impressions and reactions creates a holistic portrait that also allows Samantha and more secondary characters, like Lillian's high school boyfriend, to reveal their own complexities. Lillian herself--selfishly single-minded in her artistic drive but genuinely protective of her child and often desperately lonely--is both larger than life and thoroughly human.A riveting portrait of an artist who happens to be a woman.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 25, 2019
    Goldberg (Bee Season) evocatively profiles a brilliant woman whose identities—as woman, artist, and mother—are inseparable from one another. Aspiring photographer Lillian Preston moves from Cleveland to New York for college and spends her first few months there pining over her crush who left home to fight in the Korean War. Soon, however, Lillian turns her camera toward documenting Brooklyn’s streets and denizens—and, almost in desperation as a single mother in thrall to the demands of a young child, the minutiae of her life with her daughter, Samantha. When her first big break—a solo exhibition at a woman-owned gallery—garners more notoriety than fame (her nude photographs of her daughter, which form much of the exhibit, are labeled as obscene), Lillian comes to realize that her own ambition may come at the expense of Samantha’s innocence and their relationship as mother and daughter. Set in a pre–Roe v. Wade America, Goldberg’s novel highlights the ways in which things have and have not changed for women artists. The book’s combination of voices (composed largely of the adult Samantha’s photographic descriptions and contextual narratives, excerpts from Lillian’s journals, and letters between Lillian and friends) serves to construct, appropriately, a curated version of Lillian. This is a memorable portrait of one artist’s life.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from March 1, 2019
    From Bee Season (2000) onward, Goldberg has portrayed girls and young women with fluent sensitivity. In her brilliantly structured fourth novel, she revisits the theme again, in the story of photographer Lillian Preston, who, chronically shy yet determined, flees Cleveland for New York in 1953 at 17 and becomes an accidental single mother at 19. She loves Samantha, but photography rules their threadbare lives. A masterful street photographer, Lillian also passionately photographs her young daughter, who loves posing for her. When she exhibits in a small Brooklyn gallery a series of innocently made photographs of partially clad Samantha, both Lillian and the gallery owner are arrested. The outrage over photographer Sally Mann's portraits of her children comes to mind, and, indeed, Mann is one of a number of real-life artists, along with Diane Arbus and Vivian Maier, who inspired Goldberg. This mesmerizing mosaic of a novel takes the form of an unconventional museum-exhibition catalogue containing letters, Lillian's journal, and Samantha's piercing commentary on photographs we feel as though we've seen and her interviews with her mother's few friends, each fascinating. As she brings into provocative focus Lillian's commitment and sacrifices and the gravity of Samantha's trauma, Goldberg illuminates the odds against women artists and the terrors pregnant women faced in the pre-Roe v. Wade era. This is a novel of infinite depth, of caring authenticity both intimate and societal, of mothers and daughters, art and pain, and transcendent love.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

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