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Self-Portrait with Boy: A Novel

de Rachel Lyon

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859253,038 (4.05)3
A compulsively readable and electrifying debut about an ambitious young female artist who accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death--an image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship. Lu Rile is a relentlessly focused young photographer struggling to make ends meet. Working three jobs, responsible for her aging father, and worrying that the crumbling warehouse she lives in is being sold to developers, she is at a point of desperation. One day, in the background of a self-portrait, Lu accidentally captures on film a boy falling past her window to his death. The photograph turns out to be startlingly gorgeous, the best work of art she's ever made. It's an image that could change her life...if she lets it. But the decision to show the photograph is not easy. The boy is her neighbors' son, and the tragedy brings all the building's residents together. It especially unites Lu with his beautiful grieving mother, Kate. As the two forge an intense bond based on sympathy, loneliness, and budding attraction, Lu feels increasingly unsettled and guilty, torn between equally fierce desires: to use the photograph to advance her career, and to protect a woman she has come to love. Set in early 90s Brooklyn on the brink of gentrification, Self-Portrait with Boy is a provocative commentary about the emotional dues that must be paid on the road to success, a powerful exploration of the complex terrain of female friendship, and a brilliant debut from novelist Rachel Lyon.… (mais)
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3.5 stars ( )
  snakes6 | Aug 25, 2020 |
This book was a surprise. Recommended by a friend, I had no idea what to expect and isn't that the fun of a new book/author? It appealed to me on several levels - the moral dilemma is intriguing (what would I do if.....?), the lonesome, loner main character was sad but intriguing, and the artistic backdrop and setting was interesting because of my own artistic endeavors.

"You know, I said, since the medium was invented, photography has been undervalued, thought of as a second-rate art form. People tend not to understand the technique involved. We can see the artistry in an excellent painting, can see it in the brushstrokes. In a photograph, the artist's touch is more invisible. Part of is is also that the nature of the photograph is to exist in multiples. The value of a painting or a sculpture is higher because there is just one painting, one sculpture in the world. Dealers can sell it for all this money because it's one-of-a-kind. Because a photograph can be reproduced again and again its value is inherently lower."

"When he (the professor) said, 'an accident is just a change of course', I got it. He meant the grace in making art is being alive to chance. 'When you make a mistake, make it again', he'd say. 'There are only happy accidents'". That is, until the accident that affects the rest of her life occurs......

Well written, smoothly flowing, well developed main characters, a recommended read - could be a good book club story.

( )
  Terrie2018 | Feb 21, 2020 |
Julia bought at An Unlikely Story. Great story about ambition, art and loss. Not entirely taken with the paranormal parts. Well written and familiar. ( )
  KymmAC | Jul 7, 2019 |
I loved the premise of this book but in the end it was just okay for me. I didn't really like Lu as a character and maybe I wasn't supposed to. After all she did do an underhanded thing and she deserved to be spit on. But the depth of the story line was lacking. Her dad's eyesight. So what. No mother. So what. Her job at the grocery store. So what. I felt like some points were endlessly repeated instead of adding a different point that would have added to the story. But it is a first novel and I would read Rachel Lyon again. ( )
  kayanelson | Dec 15, 2018 |
Self-Portrait with Boy is narrated by Lu Rile, an artist photographer in her mid-twenties struggling to make ends meet while living in pre-gentrified Brooklyn during the early ‘90s. The primary pulse of the novel centers around a self-portrait photograph Lu serendipitously took of a boy, Max Schubert-Fine, falling to his death. Almost immediately upon developing the photograph, Lu christens it a “masterpiece” that she believes will definitely launch her career. It turns out that Max was the son of a married couple living in the same loft building as Lu. Before the accident, Lu didn’t interact with any of her artist neighbors, but strangely enough, the mourning surrounding Max’s tragic death brings Lu to socialize with her neighbors and into a close friendship with the boy’s mother, Kate. The obvious moral dilemma is whether Lu should even use the photograph to launch her career and whether she should tell Kate of its existence.

There are several facets of this novel that impressed me. One was seeing the novel’s world through the eyes of an artist photographer. I was often entranced as Lu navigated the New York city art world, replete with her encounters with colorfully eccentric artists, art dealers, and wealthy collectors. In addition, Lu often narrates with a sensitive artist’s eye, scrutinizing what she sees in search of a compelling photograph. Another thing I found abrasively charming was Lu’s brassy, youthful personality. She often responds to people and situations in boldly insensitive ways. But her vulnerability, relentless ambition to succeed as an artist, and sensitivity to her surroundings balanced out the less attractive sides of her personality. Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I look forward to reading future novels by Lyon. ( )
  Goodlorde | Mar 27, 2018 |
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A compulsively readable and electrifying debut about an ambitious young female artist who accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death--an image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship. Lu Rile is a relentlessly focused young photographer struggling to make ends meet. Working three jobs, responsible for her aging father, and worrying that the crumbling warehouse she lives in is being sold to developers, she is at a point of desperation. One day, in the background of a self-portrait, Lu accidentally captures on film a boy falling past her window to his death. The photograph turns out to be startlingly gorgeous, the best work of art she's ever made. It's an image that could change her life...if she lets it. But the decision to show the photograph is not easy. The boy is her neighbors' son, and the tragedy brings all the building's residents together. It especially unites Lu with his beautiful grieving mother, Kate. As the two forge an intense bond based on sympathy, loneliness, and budding attraction, Lu feels increasingly unsettled and guilty, torn between equally fierce desires: to use the photograph to advance her career, and to protect a woman she has come to love. Set in early 90s Brooklyn on the brink of gentrification, Self-Portrait with Boy is a provocative commentary about the emotional dues that must be paid on the road to success, a powerful exploration of the complex terrain of female friendship, and a brilliant debut from novelist Rachel Lyon.

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813.6 — Literature American and Canadian American fiction 21st Century

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