The Beholder

In his first novel since the highly acclaimed Curves of Pursuit, Thomas Farber has created his own language of love, in this rapturous evocation of an obsessive and erotic relationship. No longer merely subjects for conversation, the passions shared by the writer and the young woman—for art, storytelling, and experience—fuel a transgressive vision of love that cannot, in the end, compete with the demands of the ordered world, and someone must lose.

Critical Praise

The narrative voice is so compelling that the reader becomes the writer, the young woman, the memories. Don't miss this book.

                 --Isabel Allende, author of The House of the Spirits

Given such stark and dazzling eroticism, it would be all too easy to overlook the real daring of Thomas Farber's alternately subtle and explicit work: the unsparing exploration of what is truly risked when one too deeply loves someone who always holds something in reserve. You read, completely compelled. Afterward comes the haunting.

                 --Laura Glen Louis, author of Talking in the Dark

Farber's dialogue-heavy style, with its brief episodes, works perfectly in concert with the dance of flesh that drives this book like a well-paced film....Farber knows the heart, the groin and the conscience equally well, and this novel is an impressive display of his wisdom.                                    

                --Publishers Weekly

A sumptuous feast of sex-play, word-play, and ruminations on love, commitment, and mortality."                               

               --Peter Coyote, author of Sleeping Where I Fall

Farber has...added to the line of classic short novels by Conrad, James, and Lawrence. The vortical form plumbs the tremendous depth of loneliness inside desire.  

--Coleman Barks, author of The Soul of Rumi

A new lattice of desire: possession crisscrossing with loss, each sharing a thousand intersections with the other.   Haunting the spaces in between is a woman with the face of a dream, the voice of a muse, the innocence of a daughter, the body of a lover.

         -- Steve Erickson, author of The Sea Comes in at Midnight

It is what makes Farber's fiction so original. It could not be done in any other language than Farber's own. He had to make it up himself. The risks he takes make him a canary in the literary coal mine.

             --Los Angeles Times Book Review

A tempestuous, rapturous, and incendiary love affair...Farber limns the perils of Eros with terse, minimalist prose that mordantly conveys the raw, emotive tension of this doomed relationship.

              --Booklist (American Library Association)

This passionate feast--illuminated by Farber's love of language as beauty, erotica, and fun.

               --San Jose Mercury News

[Farber] brings a poet's care to the craft of writing, sculpturing the phonetic beauty of words.

              --San Francisco Chronicle

Spare, daring erotic fiction.

              --East Bay Express

I've read The Beholder. Twice. Yes, it's a meditation on “the irrevocable loneliness of the heart.” Yes, it offers a “feast of sex play, word play, and ruminations on love, commitment, and mortality.” But ultimately, for me, The Beholder is a meditation on aesthetics, a writer's meditations on writing.

At first the anonymity of the characters (“the writer,” “his daughter”) puzzled me, halted me. This trope creates formality, distance. But then I saw the book's present-tense narrative as the formality of Greek drama—a structure crafted to hold extremes of human passion and action in such a way that an audience can view and absorb them.

Page by page, I encountered an exploration of the mysteries and conundrums of representation. The body as love revealed. The writer's calling to write the book of the body. How to, in words, represent the body? Only three perfect shapes? Not so. All beings are perfect, just the way they are. The writer will use—if he chooses—all he encounters.

The play written within the play. The book within the book. The writer within the writer. At one of the book's present moments, he “has just launched himself into another three or five year book mania”—the result of which, the reader is now reading.

The work with models becomes a model for the writing of the book. Can the writer capture the “nuanced,” the “quicksilver?” The artist loves, makes love to a model so he can see the visions, dream the dreams, and record them. “He accepts the models who most want the job.” To move forward becomes, by a necessity of method, “a kind of vandalism.”

The story is, by the nature of story itself, all part of the writer—the writer's facets separate and speaking, walking, recounting, making love. The god broken apart, those fragments planted and sprouting. Of course his offspring emerge from his head, his side.

The writer as camera: “life savored in the retelling.” As the story moves forward, the photographs accumulate, gaining in number, weight, and significance. The writer assumes—from the beginning—“the camera's distance, capacity to apprehend the moment for reconsideration.” Yes, it's that Greek stage, the ancient drama unfolding in its timeless formality.

The camera's gift is the writer's gift: “this capacity to consider, assimilate. So much that was powerful required an outsider's view.”

I'm moved by The Beholder's evocation of loss, by the shadow of Atropos' shears ever-present in the lovers' sight. I'm most moved by the meditations on a writer's work: that obsession that calls into existence a book's pages, its words. “They're what had been unseen; what altered our vision; what our eyes desired.”

              -- Paulann Petersen, author of The Wild Awake

Thomas Farber is one of the most gifted American writers of his generation.

              --TGV Magazine (France, about Le Regardeur)

The bluntness and intelligence with which [Farber] undresses love will remind you of the best fiction of Milan Kundera.

              --Elle Magazine, France (about Le Regardeur)