Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland (Edgar Award nomination)

Art has a way of putting everyone at their most transactional. I’m invisible until someone calculates my value. (p. 37)

I devoured this book like I did the latte macchiato and ginger cookie from Peet’s, the traces of which you see above. It absorbed me completely and drew me into the art world in ways I have never been aware of before.

As I began to pull my thoughts together for this post, I realized that the narrator (for it is told in first person) never identifies herself. All we know is that she is a young painter, with an alcoholic mother left behind in Gainesville, Florida, and that she admires a group of artists called Pine City beyond what some might call normal admiration.

Who of us hasn’t been enchanted with a figure which seems to loom larger than life? Be it an artist, a writer, a singer, we seem to look for heroes, and then elevate them to impossible heights. Such is the way with Pine City, artists who are on the cutting edge, who cling to themselves and carve a successful path for their work to be recognized.

Somehow it doesn’t matter how old you grow, or how sophisticated you become. The people who impress themselves upon your consciousness at nineteen ill never shrink of fade from memory. They will always be just a few steps ahead, and you’ll both hate and worship them for it, because you cannot help but compare yourself. (p. 80)

Pine City is not the only object of her admiration; there is also her friend, Max, a woman who seems to have it all: style, fame, and a rich husband from the art world. They live in a house designed by one of the members of Pine City, Carey Logan, who has used sculpted hands for doorknobs, the crook of an elbow at the top of a landing of stairs…

The novel centers around Carey, a woman who has allegedly committed suicide by sticking her feet in boots filled with cement and filming herself walking into a lake where she drowns. The whole thing is filmed, as her final piece of art. Carey evolved from sculpture showing bodies in decay to performance art, where she hugged people, or smelled their breath, or did equally bizarre things that constitute art in the art world.

“I’m creatively lonely all the time.”

“Right? It’s so dissonant. I want to be an individual. I want my work to be so unique that everyone says there’s nothing like it, but then, I’m always looking around, like who’s making tracks? Who can I follow? How am I supposed to do this? (p. 156)

Really, as I think about it, Fake Like Me is more about what happens when the objects of our admiration can not bear up to our affection. It is about the loneliness inherent, perhaps, to each of us. It is about finding a place of contentment with who we are and what we do. I found it extremely well written, and very powerful.

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