The Maker of Saints

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The author's previous novel, 1959, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.Bird Kinkaid is an African-American woman who has recently been plagued by nightmares: It is a month after she witnessed Alex, her closest friend, plunge eight stories to her death on the sidewalk below-and her grief has turned into obsession. Was Alex killed or was it a suicide? Was it an accident or did the white art critic and sometimes lover Frank Burton push her ...

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Overview

A QPB and BOMC selection

The author's previous novel, 1959, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.Bird Kinkaid is an African-American woman who has recently been plagued by nightmares: It is a month after she witnessed Alex, her closest friend, plunge eight stories to her death on the sidewalk below-and her grief has turned into obsession. Was Alex killed or was it a suicide? Was it an accident or did the white art critic and sometimes lover Frank Burton push her to her death? The two women had an intense friendship, their lives intertwined by shared space, history, friends (and occasionally lovers), and a passion for art. Alex's death shatters Bird, compelling her to search for answers to her friend's death amidst the disparate strands of Alex's quixotic life. When she locates a series of bizarre video tapes among Alex's belongings-in which she discusses her friends, her artwork, and her turbulent love life-Bird has the key to solving both the mystery of her friend's death and her own long-hidden demons.Alive with wit and sensibility, Maker of Saints is a fascinating and provocative novel about love, art, jealousy, and friendship in a funky, glitzy, New York demimonde.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Clearly based on the 1985 death of N.Y.C. artist Ana Mendieta for which her husband, sculptor Carl Andre, was widely deemed responsible although he was never convicted, Davis's new novel is a riveting crime story that enters some of the darker corners of the artistic soul. When beautiful performance artist Alex Decatur plunges to her death from her Manhattan apartment, her best friend, Cynthia "Bird" Kincaid, a young African American sound engineer and former painter, struggles to track down the killer. Years earlier, Alex "gave birth to Bird the artist simply by being the first person to look at her paintings and see them as art." Yet, it was Alex's white lover, art critic Frank Burton, who killed Bird's creative spark with a savage review. Because she overheard a violent argument between the couple just before Alex's death, Bird thinks that Frank killed Alex. The police, however, have ruled the incident a probable suicide. When Bird begins to catalogue Alex's work, she discovers the hidden life of her alluring friend. Then Bird is attacked at home by a masked intruder and seriously injured. With the help of a friend and a young married banker with whom she is having an affair, Bird uncovers a motive for murder. Stunned by the revelations, including the fact that Alex had appropriated some of Bird's experiences as her own, Bird sets a trap for Frank that propels the novel toward a dramatic conclusion. In the end, she must not only risk her life but also confront the demons that have bottled up her powers as an artist. Along the way, Davis 1959 reveals truths about what it takes to be an African-American artist in the city, and her narrative pulses with a multiethnic chorus of lively urban voices. Oct.
Library Journal
Versatile creator Davis, a poet, playwright, and librettist Malcolm X: The Great Photographs, LJ 1/93 follows her well- received first novel, 1959 HarperCollins, 1993 with an intriguing but frustrating study of obsession, discovery, and revenge in an edgy New York art subcommunity. An array of colorful but shallowly introduced characters circle the tense triumvirate of Alex, an enigmatic, compelling artist killed by a horrific fall from her apartment window; neighbor and best friend Bird, who surrounds her secrets with household gods and fixates on Alex's death; and Frank, Alex's white lover, whom Bird is convinced murdered Alex. The route to a violent, nearly surreal and impressively clever if over-the-top confrontation between Bird and Frank takes the reader through vivid New York street scenes, off on distracting tangents, and into the overanalyzed central motif of Alex's secret video journals. An imperfect novel from a talented writer; expect demand in hip communities.Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio
Kirkus Reviews
Second-novelist Davis (1959, 1992) adds a little intrigue to this dull tale of art, love, and death among some black bohemians in New York.

Cynthia Kincaid, known to her friends as "Bird," is a sound engineer for Public Radio, having abandoned painting after a scathing review of her first show. Her artistic impulses now seem to be sublimated into her sex life, or, at least, into the art of enticing a wide array of handsome and sexy men into her bed. Her true obsession, though, is the recent death of her best friend, Alex Decatur, an artist "known for her atavistic clay works." Bird is convinced that Alex's fall from her apartment window was no suicide, but somehow related to Alex's violent relation with Frank Burton, a white art critic who also happens to be responsible for the devastating review of Bird's work. Bird and Alex rented adjoining apartments in one of New York's noisier neighborhoods, "the Quarter," blaring with "the sound of dark bodies in a cramped Babel of passions and spirits." When Bird discovers Alex's secret address book, and her library of video diaries, she hopes to find the tell-tale clues to her death. Instead, she realizes that Alex was deliberately trying to torture Burton with outrageous tales of other lovers, which Bird recognizes as based on her own encounters. Burton, meanwhile, fears what might be on the tapes, and eventually sneaks into the apartment only to encounter Bird's elaborate surprise, an art installation that confronts him with the truth. Relying on martial arts and a strange mix of voodoo craziness, Bird gets Burton right where she wants him, and also rediscovers her own talent as an artist along the way.

Davis works in lots of asides on black filmmakers, sexual politics among blacks, and religious mumbo-jumbo—all of which diminish interest in the mystery that supposedly drives the plot, but that feels more like an afterthought in this meandering work.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140267358
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/1997
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.72 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Thulani Davis teaches writing at Barnard College. Also a poet, playwright, librettist, and Grammy winner, she lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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