Art isn’t created in a vacuum: Teodoro on Faber’s latest

Happy to see a great review by Jose Teodoro of Michael Faber’s latest (and last) novel, The Book of Strange New Things, in today’s Globe Books.

I reviewed the novel for the Winnipeg Free Press a couple of weekends ago. It’s pretty well mandatory to mention Faber’s retirement in any review of Book–less so to mention the recent death of Faber’s wife, Eva Youren, which had some influence over the novel’s shape, in Faber’s own words:

I could talk for an hour about the things that fed into this novel, but the main thing that resonates from it now was not in the air when I conceived it, losing my wife Eva to cancer. I was a few chapters into writing when she was diagnosed. So, a narrative that initially found metaphors for the distances between races, cultures and faiths also became a book about the distance between a person living on Planet Myeloma and their loved one who isn’t.

Teodoro strikes a helpful balance between biographical and literary readings of the novel:

I’ve read that Youren, like many a writer’s spouse, was Faber’s first reader and editor, his closest collaborator. We’re accustomed to thinking of novels as the products of a single mind, but Faber’s resolve to retire in the midst of what would seem his prime – he’s only 56, and didn’t begin publishing until about 15 years ago – reminds us that art isn’t created in a vacuum.


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