book review: prochownik’s dream

I can’t remember exactly the last time I read a book like Alex Miller’s Prochownik’s Dream. It’s in the literary fiction genre, where relationships are so tenuous and delicate and there’s nary a second moon to be seen.

Toni is an artist, supported by his wife. He hasn’t painted since his father died, instead doing installations that pass without comment. The book opens with him envying his 4 year old daughter’s confident line in her unskilled crayon drawings, wishing he could do something again.

Then old artist friends return to Melbourne from Sydney and he begins painting again, inspired. The book is about how an artist doing what he is meant to do doesn’t necessarily have a good effect on those around him.

I was impressed with the language used in the book. Miller talks about painting in a way that makes Toni’s passions make sense. Also, so many of the cheap and easy ways to deal with the conflicts set up in the book are deftly avoided, as are the clean resolutions. I really liked this, and it was my first real bit of Australian literary fiction wile I lived in the country. Thanks to Rob, my coworker at Prosentient, for the going away present.

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