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Short Fiction
The Writer's Brush
by Donald Friedman

Price: $50.00
480 pages
trade cloth
ISBN: 9780922811762
LCCN #: 2007011535

"[A] subversive jewel of an idea, sparkling audaciously on every page of this well-designed book." -- The New York Times Book Review

Selection of the Readers' Subscription and Book-of-the-Month Clubs; seen in O, The Oprah Magazine's "Reading Room" and Vanity Fair's "Hot Type."

"The itch to make dark marks on white paper is shared by many writers and artists," begins John Updike in his essay in The Writer's Brush, and this stunning collection will amaze lovers of the literary and fine arts alike. Author Donald Friedman has gathered together reproductions of paintings, drawings, and sculpture -- many from private collections, never before published -- by a pantheon of great writer-artists, including thirteen Nobel laureates.

The result is astounding. Whether viewing the beautiful landscapes that Hermann Hesse credited with saving his life, the manuscript sketches that Fyodor Dostoevsky made of his characters, or the can-can dancers secretly drawn by Joseph Conrad, readers of The Writer's Brush will gain new insights into the lives and minds of their favorite writers and the nature of the creative process itself.

Accompanying the artwork are fascinating biographies that provide little-known details of the writers' lives in the visual arts and offer the writers' own observations on their art and the relationships they saw between word and image. While written for a broad audience, The Writer's Brush is also an essential reference work, with alphabetical and chronological listings of its subjects (the names boldfaced when they appear in other essays, for easy cross-referencing) and an extensive bibliography.

Friedman notes in his introduction that, for many of the writers anthologized here, a coin toss could have determined whether to spend the day standing in a smock or seated with a pen. The Writer's Brush brings together for the first time -- in one, unique, affordable volume -- both worlds of these writers in the definitive work on the writer-artist.

"The artworks are compelling and very diverse, from Guy Davenport's excellent water color portrait of Ezra Pound to Tom Wolfe and his scathingly amusing caricature of Ted Kennedy. But there are also fascinating tidbits in the mini bios. I could continue on about this book because it is filled with such gems, but you get the picture (pun intended.) Check it out yourself." -- East Baton Rouge Public Library Blog

"Far from confining themselves solely to words on paper, an astonishing number of substantial writers have made drawings and paintings as well. Just how many is now disclosed in Donald Friedman's revelatory book -- an immense, well-researched and handsomely illustrated achievement . . . this perpetually surprising book." -- Richard Cork, The Guardian(UK)

"[F]or one who loves art almost as much as books, The Writer's Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers by Donald Friedman was a joy. This exquisitely produced tome presented portraits of the writers as artists with an Irish dimension represented by Yeats, Joyce, O'Casey and Bowen among others." -- Madeleine Keane, literary editor of the Sunday Irish Indpendent

"[T]hese images, accompanied by brief biographies, open windows through which we can glimpse something new and often unexpected about the the sensibilities -- and the souls -- of our favorite writers." -- Francine Prose, "The Reading Room" in O, The Oprah Magazine

"From an illustration by Kathy Acker to a pastel by W. B. Yeats, an oil painting by e. e. cummings to a silkscreen by Kurt Vonnegut, the tome includes more than four hundred color reproductions of art by more than two hundred writers. While it's not as pretty to look at, the text that accompanies each image provides some biographical and contextual information about each writer-artist. Readers are likely familiar with the images these authors have rendered in print; The Writer's Brush offers a colorful catalogue of those they've rendered in paint." -- Kevin Larimer, "News and Trends" in Poets & Writers

"'All my life,' D. H. Lawrence once said, 'I have from time to time gone back to paint because it gave me a form of delight that words can never give.' The possibility that Lawrence's urge to make art might be widely shared among his fellow wordsmiths receives ample affirmation in Donald Friedman's The Writer's Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers. . . . Among the nearly two hundred writers on display are likely suspects (Henri Michaux, Beatrix Potter, Edward Lear, André Breton, Guy Davenport) and surprises -- Ed McBain (an elegant bronze nude), James A. Michener (a 1966 work in the mode of Jasper Johns), and Sylvia Plath (a color-charged pastoral). Some pieces are mere doodles, but many others are fully accomplished, suggesting a desire by their creators to be regarded as more than dilettantes. If much of the imagery is derivative, it is no less revelatory of individual taste and fascinations. J. P. Donleavy's watercolor of a face-off between two piranha-like fish (the smaller one no less fierce and eager for the fight than the larger) was clearly inspired by Klee but is redolent of the angular wit of the writer's combative protagonists. Some works evince an uncanny prescience: For a plate in On the Theory of Colors, Goethe mixed abstract figures with a landscape scene to create a collage that could pass muster in any contemporary gallery. Ancient scribes made images -- hieroglyphs and ideograms -- well before developing alphabets and words, and this compendium vividly reminds us of those pictorial origins." -- Albert Mobilio, Bookforum

"Writers often feel the need to express themselves in a more tactile and colorful medium than black letters on a white page and find liberation in setting aside pen and keyboard for brush and paint, the rigors of language for a swath of color, a spiraling line. In a grand feat of research and interpretation, novelist Friedman has gathered artworks ranging from notebook doodles to refined paintings by more than 200 diverse writers. Luscious reproductions are matched with pithy biographies, so readers learn that before she became established as a writer, George Sand supported herself as a painter. William Carlos Williams was inspired to paint by a friend from medical school. John Berger and Mark Strand were art majors. Henry Miller's exuberant watercolors number in the thousands. Works by William Faulkner, Sylvia Plath, Hermann Hesse, Derek Walcott, and Jonathan Lethem fill this bountiful volume, which concludes with a superb and defining essay about the nexus of art and writing by William Gass and reflections by John Updike, who has the last words on writers who make art: 'the impulse is one.'" -- Donna Seaman, Booklist, Starred review

"In this hefty volume, novelist Friedman takes a look at the artwork of more than 200 authors who found other avenues for expression in drawing, painting or sculpting. Aside from the familiar illustrations of Edward Gorey, Beatrix Potter and (to a lesser extent) Kurt Vonnegut, Friedman also unearths work from literary heavyweights past and present, including the Bronte sisters, Herman Hesse, Rudyard Kipling, Colleen McCullough, Vladamir Nabokov, John Updike and Jonathan Lethem. Each entry offers a short biography and passages from journals, letters or interviews illuminating the author's reasons for picking up pen or paint; according to Elizabeth Bishop, for instance, writers make a "frequent complaint that painting is more fun than writing." Examples of authors' art, one or two from each subject, are handsomely reproduced in vivid color alongside the text. Friedman also covers a long list of writers whose artworks couldn't be located or secured for publication, and essays by William H. Gass and Updike provide perspective. Sure to cover at least a few of any given lit fan's favorites, Friedman's volume provides hours of fascinating browsing, and makes a perfect coffee table book for the avid reader." -- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review


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