Elizabeth Hickey’s Lives of the Artists

When I got word of Elizabeth Hickey‘s second novel, The Wayward Muse, I was intrigued—I knew that Hickey’s first novel, The Painted Kiss, had looked at the relationship between Gustave Klimt and Emilie Flöge, and now here she was tackling the romantic triangle between Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Jane Burden, and William Morris. How, I wondered, had she come to focus on the lives of artists as a recurring theme for her fiction? Fortunately, I’m in a position to get answers to those kinds of questions…It’s funny that she mentions Irving Stone, because he was actually one of the names I was prepared to invoke regarding her work.

elizabeth-hickey.jpgThe truth is that I’ve been unintentionally training for this particular niche my entire life.

Fall 1977, Louisville, Kentucky: The first day of first grade at St. Matthews Elementary. Since I can already read, the teacher sends me to the library, where I ask the surprised librarian where the biographies are. I read about Florence Nightingale, Jenny Lind, Helen Keller, Babe Didrikson Zaharias—the few women who are considered important enough to have biographies written about them. Later, I graduate to adult biography and my new heroines are Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott and Marie Curie. Marie Curie, I learn, kept her husband Pierre’s brain in a jar in her room. Even then I had an eye for the curious detail.

Summer 1983, Northwest Harbor, Maine: I am twelve, and my vacation reading is The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. I fall in love with Michelangelo. I fall in love with sculpture. I fall in love with Italy, with the Medici, with the artist’s romances. I can still picture Vittoria Colonna’s pale, lovely face.


28 May 2007 | guest authors |

Read This: Kid*Lit(erary)

My friend Laurel Snyder has started up a new blog called Kid*Lit(erary), which features “micro-reviews of the very very very very very best children’s books in the world.”

“You might ask why a 32 year old (young) woman is reading children’s books,” Snyder writes in an early post. “And I could tell you that it’s because I’m a children’s author (which I am) but that would only be a partial truth. Because I’ve been reading (and re-reading) the same books for 25 years, and I’ve only been a children’s author for two of those years… But now I want NEW books, books that will live up to the standards of the books I love.” So far, she seems to be putting together an interesting mix, juxtaposing classics like The 13 Clocks with newer stories like Olivia Kidney. If you’re frequently shopping for reading material for kids—or, like Laurel, for yourself on the sly—this seems like a pretty good place to get some inspiration.

28 May 2007 | read this |

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