Friday, September 09, 2022

Five top novels that find motivation in beauty

Jill Bialosky's newest volume of poetry Asylum: A Personal, Historical, Natural Inquiry in 103 Lyric Sections, was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. She is the author of five acclaimed collections of poetry, four critically acclaimed novels, including The Prize, and most recently, The Deceptions, and two memoirs, Poetry Will Save Your Life and a New York Times bestselling memoir History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life.

At Lit Hub Bialosky tagged "five novels, all from different milieux, that use art— whether in a museum, a church, a city, a drawing room, or a catalog—to inspire a result in a meaningful and unexpected way." One title on the list:
E.M. Forster, A Room with a View

Lucy Honeychurch is a young naïve woman locked in conventions and social mores who visits Italy with her cousin Charlotte. George Emerson is the person of interest for Lucy, though she doesn’t quite know it until much later. George is of a different social class than Lucy and was brought up by his father to reject social norms, religion, and to follow his heart. Lucy on a stroll alone finds herself at the Basilica Di Santa Croce without her guidebook. “Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy.” She runs into George Emerson and his father marveling at the Giotto frescoes. She says of Santa Croce, “though it is like a barn, has harvested many beautiful things inside its walls.” Lucy is transformed by the art and beauty of the inner sanctum of the Santa Croce and finds the Giotto “wonderful.”

A transformation is slowly happening, though she isn’t quite yet aware of it. Mr. Emerson, George’s father tells her, “let yourself go, you are inclined to get muddled, let yourself go.” Blinded by the decorum of Victorian morals and expectations, it is her encounter with beauty in the church, the beauty of Florence, and the beauty of George Emerson, whom she views in the church as a heroic figure out of Michelangelo, that unlocks her and leaves her open to love. The title of the novel, Room with a View, signals the gift the Emerson’s give to Lucy, changing rooms so she can have the view at their hotel. A room stands for confinement, perhaps for one’s inner world too, and the view represents nature, air, freedom. What ultimately binds Lucy and George is their mutual love of beauty.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue