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The Prize by Jill Bialosky

the prizeWhat happens when an artist’s desire to be rich and famous collides with the need to be true to his art? Similarly, what are the moral responsibilities of a gallery to the artistic vision of a painter or sculptor—even at the cost of bruising the ego of that artist and potentially losing him or her? And finally, what is the price of deception—personally and professionally?

Jill Bialosky, author of four poetry collections, two novels, and a New York Times bestselling memoir, has written a haunting tale that explores the inner demons of artist Agnes Murray and her art dealer, Edward Darby. Agnes has the volatile combination of insecurity, inflated ego, and a desire for fame. The reader is frequently reminded of her fine, Irish beauty—the lustrous, red curls, green eyes, and slender frame. She is described as nearly anorexic, as if consumed by her ambition and her creative endeavors. Utterly dependent on others’ opinion of her, she allows her husband, “art whore” Nate Fisher, to control her.

Meanwhile, Edward has demons of his own. He has kept troubling secrets from his wife, Holly, and over the course of 25 years, has not shared much of his professional life with her. Bialosky explores the impact of this on a marriage. Edward’s gift for compartmentalizing allows him to justify his affair with the beautiful sculptor, Julia Rosenthal, while still being comforted by hearth and home, represented by his wife. As Elizabeth Rosner writes in the San Francisco Chronicle, “It’s tempting to ask whether Edward’s limited self-awareness is what prevents him from being a true artist himself. Lacking the necessary spark of creative genius, he has made a life of service to the brilliance of others; thus he is in a perpetual state of searching for someone else’s fire to restore his own.”

The Prize is an exploration of the depths of passion—erotic and creative—and analyzes the flawed, all too human, characters that populate its pages. As author Howard Norman concludes, “The Prize is vividly modern, and in the tensions offered between art and life, timeless. Yet finally, Bialosky’s novel is a kind of old-fashioned love story, with an ending whose bittersweetness is powerfully earned”

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