Title: The Museum of Modern Love
Author: Heather Rose
Genre: Fiction (literary)
Release date: 1st September, 2016
“Arky Levin is a film composer in New York separated from his wife, who has asked him to keep one devastating promise. One day he finds his way to The Atrium at MOMA and sees Marina Abramovic in The Artist is Present. The performance continues for seventy-five days and, as it unfolds, so does Arky. As he watches and meets other people drawn to the exhibit, he slowly starts to understand what might be missing in his life and what he must do.
This dazzlingly original novel asks beguiling questions about the nature of art, life and love and finds a way to answer them.” (Allen & Unwin)
Approximately 15 pages into The Museum of Modern Love, I decided that it was a contender for my favourite new release of the year. Two pages later I became concerned that if I kept on reading that it would take a turn for the worse and I’d end up hating it; I contemplated putting it down and never picking it up again because it just started out that good. Thankfully I didn’t stop reading, it didn’t take a turn for the worse, and it’s still a contender for my favourite new release of the year.
I found it to be a book of contrasts: life and death; hope and despair; love and the loss of it; and moving through these things and tying it all together, sound and silence. The sound comes from Arky Levin, a composer who’s suffering from a lack of inspiration professionally, and who’s personal life has been touched by tragedy. He’s an odd sort of character with the ability to weave so much life into his music, yet seem to have no ability to fully partake in the real life that happens around him – and it does very much happen around him.
The silence comes from the artist, Marina Abramovic. As she sits at a table in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, unspeaking and barely moving, she provides an interesting counterpoint to Arky. Because despite her silence – or perhaps because of it – she is in the thick of life. Through her silent art she connects with the people who visit the exhibition and I guess in some way this is why so many people come to see her and sit with her; she allows them to make a connection with another human being without having to say a word and without expectations. And I think in this world full of technology and expectation, it’s becoming harder to make that silent connection.
I found the narrator of the book to be unique and wonderful. While it was never explicitly stated who the narrator was, just the idea of who it might have been was enough for me, and there were certainly enough hints to confirm my suspicions. I’d tell you, but I feel like that might take away from the wonder of it somehow. In any case, I thought it was a really clever perspective from which to narrate and added just a little bit of magic.
I can’t really pinpoint why I loved The Museum of Modern Love so much. I don’t think it’s a novel that has any one thing that stands out above everything else; all the individual parts just fit together so beautifully to make a novel that’s both thoughtful and moving, without being over the top. It didn’t leave me elated and it didn’t leave me curled up in bed weeping. But I hugged it when I finished because it gave me that feeling – the one we readers sometimes feel at the conclusion of a book, but can’t quite put into words. It’s about so many things: relationships, life, and art; but it’s also about how these things work together. In their early stages, relationships are like blank canvases that we build our lives on, and the life we create on that canvas changes every day.
Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for providing me with an advance copy.