THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Wed, Aug. 28, 2002
A writer discovers a muse in female form
The writer in Thomas Farber's novel, "The Beholder,'' seeks his muse in the
The protagonist -- known simply as "the writer'' -- poses the question:
"Why should only visual artists get to study the female form? . . . I felt
He finds his muse, not among the naked models posing as he writes, but in
"Utterly undoing him,'' Farber writes, "she begins to unpin her long brown
In this passionate feast -- illuminated by Farber's love of language as
"The god of passion has come to town. Passion is going to have its say,''
On Thursday, Farber, who teaches at the University of California-Berkeley,
"In this radiant novel, Thomas Farber creates a new lattice of desire,''
A Fulbright scholar, Farber is a three-time winner of the National Endowment
He's also an avid surfer. "Surfing is putting yourself in the arms of the
Born in Boston, he grew up in a "book-obsessed home.'' His mother was the
"Books were the language of my home,'' he says. "You had to read to keep
Language is a form of play in his novel, as well. The lovers use words as
"The way they talk to each other excites them,'' says Farber. "They're
The lovers are also excited by their photo-taking.
"The click of the Polaroid runs through the novel -- it's about holding on
"In preparation, I had models come to the house, much like my character,
Farber creates his muse in the fictional flesh of the writer's lover, a
The novel is an ode to writing: "Writers are the canary in the mine shaft.
It's also a psychological exploration of self and how the things and people
When his lover asks the writer how his book is, he answers: "I'm fine,
Farber says, "They become each other's muse. He tells her she's the woman
The story, he says, is "also about death, loss and the threat of loss.''
She does, after all, have to choose between her lover and her husband --
"Ah, adultery,'' Farber says. "The book doesn't recommend adultery. But
And what about his own love life?
"Right now, I live alone,'' he says. "Like my character, I've had some
"It was being cared for that allowed me to be a risk-taker and look into
The novel's epilogue is a short, sweet paragraph floating like a lifeboat in
"Dear one: here we are. Book you said you wanted. Book we've become.''