The Matisse Stories

The Matisse Stories

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by A. S. Byatt
     
 

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This elegant, beautifully illustrated edition contains three stories, each touched in a different way by the paintings of Henri Matisse. Their subjects' lives unravel from simple beginnings - a trip to the hairdresser, a cleaning woman's passion for knitting, lunch in a Chinese restaurant - but gradually the veneer of ordinariness is peeled back to expose pain, reveal… See more details below

Overview

This elegant, beautifully illustrated edition contains three stories, each touched in a different way by the paintings of Henri Matisse. Their subjects' lives unravel from simple beginnings - a trip to the hairdresser, a cleaning woman's passion for knitting, lunch in a Chinese restaurant - but gradually the veneer of ordinariness is peeled back to expose pain, reveal desire, or express the intensity of joy in color and creation.

Editorial Reviews

Bruce Bawer
For all their thematic elaboration, Ms. Byatt's stories in "The Matisse Stories" do not feel contrived or didactic. On the contrary, her characters are credible, their encounters authentically complex, their environments vividly delineated. Indeed, these stories are unusually painterly in their particulars of form, color and shadow....These stories are all about human beings: about how little we can know (or may care to know) about the people with whom we spend our lives, and how tragic the results of that ignorance (or indifference) can be. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
In three masterfully written stories loosely inspired by Matisse paintings, Byatt (Possession) dazzles with her evocation of sensuous detail while adroitly emphasizing the interconnectedness of life and art. In each one, a woman teetering on the edge of losing her emotional equilibrium finds a small nugget of comfort after some unsettling surprises. Susannah, the troubled middle-aged heroine of "Medusa's Ankle," is drawn into a hairdressing salon by a Matisse reproduction on the wall. Byatt understands that a woman is most acutely vulnerable looking at her unadorned image in a mirror, and when the self-absorbed hairdresser confides that he plans to leave his wife for a young lover, Susannah's sudden outburst as she contemplates the loss of her youth, her attractiveness and her future is movingly real. Dr. Gerda Himmelblau, "a solitary intellectual nearing retirement," has a quieter epiphany in "The Chinese Lobster," but it is facilitated by a man whose sensibility about art and life she shares. Two doughty women captivate the reader in "Art Work," a delightfully surprising tale in which the "received" nature of art and a woman's role as muse are questioned with amusing insight. Byatt's lapidary prose shimmers with the colors she describes so intensely. Her understanding of human relationships is no less brilliant.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Three stories from Byatt, in each of which a woman's life is touched in some way by the paintings of Henri Matisse. (May)
Library Journal
A best seller in England, where it was published in 1993, this beautifully illustrated volume contains three stories-each a sort of "still life" inspired by a particular Matisse painting-of seemingly ordinary women: a middle-aged teacher forced to play psychiatrist to her self-centered hairdresser; a cleaning woman with a passion for knitting; and a college dean discussing a case of sexual harassment with the accused over lunch in a Chinese restaurant. Byatt (Possession, LJ 11/1/90), who has been in the news lately for her principled stand against huge advances for literary fiction, is a consummate prose stylist, possessed of both perfect pitch for dialog and a painterly eye for the telling details that flesh out these characters and reveal their essential humanness. Highly recommended for fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/94.]-David Sowd, formerly with Stark Cty. District Lib., Canton, Ohio
Donna Seaman
yatt has drawn on the twin spheres of her literary passions, fiction and criticism, to create a triptych of stunning stories. Each ever-deepening tale revolves around a painting by Matisse. The paintings and the stories are about women, but Byatt's women have none of the abandon of Matisse's serenely voluptuous beauties: her women work, worry, and sacrifice. They are responsible and painfully honest. We gradually realize that they are also simmering with anger and grief as Byatt's strategically neutral tone gives way to ravishing descriptions of sounds, colors, and smells that bring each setting to life and steer each conflict to its eviscerating conclusion. In "Medusa's Ankles," one of Matisse's monumental nudes, a rosy spread of femaleness, graces a hair salon where a distinguished translator hopes to regain a hint of her youthful looks. In "Art Works," Byatt delves into the mysteries of creativity with a brilliant group portrait of three very different artists: a generous wife, her petulant husband, and their regal housekeeper. And finally, in "The Chinese Lobster," Byatt contrasts the tortured self-loathing of an anorexic art student with the smug opulence of Matisse's nudes and ponders the lure of suicide. These are breathtakingly beautiful stories, rendered with precision and poetry.
From the Publisher
"Full of delight and humor...The Matisse Stories is studded with brilliantly apt images and a fine sense for subtleties of conversation and emotion." —San Francisco Chronicle

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780701160883
Publisher:
Random House Adult Trade Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/27/1994
Pages:
128

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