In ENTER VENUS the Goddess of Love comes to earth to save a marriage that’s falling apart. In the course of her magical ministrations, the art masterpieces at the magnificent Frick mansion spring to life and into action and a torrential downpour sweeps characters from a New York City street to Venice, Italy.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)|
Read an Excerpt
A Fairy Tale for Adults
By Sondra Luger
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2016 Sondra Luger
All rights reserved.
Jane surveyed the disarray. The room looked frail and desolate, as though suffering from chronic pinkeye, despite the opulent clutter and her presence in its midst. There was surely a rational approach to discovering its whereabouts — the brooch that is, the beautiful ruby-studded brooch Alan had bought her for their first anniversary. She stumbled over a pile of lamé and brocade heaped at the foot of the bed and regained her balance at the open door of the closet, awash with the pastels she loved only a shade less than herself. She grimaced and rubbed the spot where she imagined some sequins had brushed her leg, oblivious of the fact that the sequined dresses still hung on their padded hangers in the closet. The brooch had been a favorite since its receipt, and although she hadn't worn it often she had always savored the pleasure of its possession during those nooks and crannies of time when despondency overtook her. Like the time she had been asked to straighten out the muddle of arrangements for the flower show, and the time St. Barnaby's Home for the Indigent and Aged had begged her to solicit bequests from the nouveau riche youngsters who now crowded a once sedate ballroom a mere block away. And somehow she had gotten through. Beautifully, in fact. She had been hailed as nonpareil at orchestrating flowers and their human tangents and superb at solicitation. The brooch was her talisman. She was vague about why she felt she needed it just now. She felt no pangs of inadequacy or depression. Quite the contrary. She was elated. Her thirty-sixth birthday was a source of celebration and satisfaction to her. She was still able to catch the eye as well as the ear of men and felt wonderful and young. Her only uneasiness centered on the brooch. Still, she had time before the flowers, the fuss and the opera. Yes, she had discovered Alan's secret this year as always. A brief wonder at her disinclination to be surprised flitted across her mind. She threw herself across the bed, pulled open the top drawer of her night table, and removed the pink book that itemized her social obligations and pleasures of the year to date. She noted that she had last worn the brooch three months earlier at the anniversary party friends had given her and Alan to celebrate their sixth year together. It had graced her white woolen dress as a pendant. And indeed, it was with her collection of hanging jewels, still on the silver chain. She held it up to the light. The silver giraffe, his mouth set in an endearing, full, and foolish smile, winked at her all his ruby-spotted length. She removed him from the chain and placed him carefully among friends in an extensive jeweled clip-on ménage. She penciled a notation in the pink book. Now she would remember.
* * *
"But Mrs. Blaiser, you don't understand. The public is crying out for representational art. They don't want to be shown a Rorschach blot and be told that it's a cat, or a mash of brown and green squiggles and be told that it's a tree. They want to see things as they really are. Those framed gobs of paint out there don't speak to the average person. And let's face it — most of us are average."
"Mr. Leroy, you have most winning manners. You attack my understanding, my stature and the artists this gallery represents, and you expect to succeed in persuading me to accept your work."
"No, I don't."
"Oh, well then, you have succeeded admirably. Why did you come here, anyway? Surely you know we deal solely in abstract art."
"I thought you might appreciate a crack at something new. At least something so old that it's more novel than new. And I saw your picture in one of the trade magazines and figured that a beautiful woman might be interested in hanging some beautiful art, don't you see?"
Jane fingered the giraffe brooch and suppressed a smile. "You see and I perceive. Your paintings are pretty, and I'm sure you'll find a proper outlet for them."
The young man shook his head. "I don't think so. I've tried just about everywhere. But you do think they're pretty?"
"Yes. Good day, Mr. Leroy." She pressed a button on the desk. "Angie, tell Phil to bring in the ad copy for the spread in Gourmet."
She thumbed through the appointment calendar on her desk. It was nine o'clock. At ten a meeting with Jordan James about a possible fall show, at ten-thirty ditto with Gordon Hassler, at noon lunch with Maggie French and a reporter from Flower Children Magazine to discuss personality and character of flowers as depicted in Maggie's paintings. Jane had insisted on being present, because no, Maggie could not speak for herself, at least not without getting into a lawsuit. One near-miss was enough for Jane Blaiser's favorite client. At three o'clock she would examine what George had come up with in the way of a new contract for Carson Trumbull and check on preparations for his upcoming show. She ruefully recalled her last meeting with him. Mr. Leroy has a point, she thought. Artists like Trumbull do want to "see things as they really are" — profusely green and bankable. Economic not artistic reality. But being of a realistic business bent herself, she knew that the popular Trumbull, churning out work as he did, was producing a glutted market, and before long no market at all for his work. She toyed with the idea of not renewing his contract. She would get short-term notoriety for insanity and long-term kudos for foresight. The publicity a Trumbull-Blasier brouhaha would generate would be both free and lucrative. She frowned. George had been working hard on the contract. But her eyes danced: BLAISER DROPS TRUMBULL! The show would be exciting, especially exciting. The end would be like the beginning, only a doubly big deal. There was a knock on the door.
"Come in, Phil." She closed her appointment book with satisfaction, then fingered the button again. "Angie, no calls 'til eleven o'clock."
* * *
Alan Blaiser pulled his coat collar closer to his face. Jane had warned him it was spring in name only and that he had better not discard his woolen coat just yet, but he hadn't listened to her. Some red and yellow tulips along Park Avenue bobbed in the breeze. He clenched his teeth. The weather would just have to learn to cooperate with the calendar. His shoulders hunched forward, he turned down 64 Street and walked toward Lexington Avenue. Jane would be surprised. He enjoyed catching her at off moments and treasured those few occasions when he had succeeded. He had canceled all morning appointments. Digby would rearrange them for him, taking some himself. At the corner of Lexington Avenue he made two purchases, a newspaper and a cornucopia of flowers. He discarded all but several sheets of the newspaper, wrapping the remainder around the flowers.
"Spring is news!" he beamed at the vendor. He continued down Lexington for half a block, eyes bright, nose red.
* * *
"I'll announce you, Mr. Blaiser," she said doubtfully, "but it will throw Jane off if you just march in. That Gourmet spread is turning out to be ticklish work, and there is a deadline."
"That's all right, Angie," he said bravely. "I can wait." He bent over her appointment book. "She can squeeze me in before Mr. — uh — Jordan."
"That's Mr. James."
"Yes, well, whatever. But perhaps my flowers can get in earlier?"
"I'm really sorry, but it will —"
"Only throw her off, I know."
"I'll put them in water." She reached out for them.
"Don't remove the newspaper, though."
"Mr. Blaiser, I can't soak them with the newspaper."
"But the newspaper is half the charm. Save the newspaper. Do you think you can rewrap the flowers properly? "
Her mouth fell open.
"Oh, never mind; I'll do it myself." He strode moodily to the magazine rack.
"It's the thought that accounts," she said, "not the newspaper." "Or the flowers, or the fact that I'm here." He sat down heavily and became very busy reading Coiffure Trends upside down.
Angie shook her head.
* * *
The gallery, long and high-ceilinged, was cubicled off at intervals to achieve varied states of intimacy in which to view the art. One work, "Orgy at Nice," had nearly retired to one of these enclosures at the behest of the artist, but Jane had been adamant about its placement on a long wall. The circles and angles that crowded the canvas required space, breathing room. All wall space, enclosed and free, displayed splashes, blotches, dots or geometry alone or in company with one another. There were shapes, colors and subjects for all moods and tastes, one of Jane Blaiser's more eclectic art shows. The morning hours brought only a thin stream of people, and today was no exception. A young man with long hair stood before a mass of black encrustations and wrote in a notebook. A young couple stood at attention in front of a green tangle, and an elderly woman and her daughter gazed open-mouthed at "Orgy at Nice." Screened from view, except for her legs resting in sturdy squat shoes, visible at the bottom of a partition, was a young woman of indeterminate age and eyes of uncertain color. She wore a chunky brown coat and a tan woolen hat pulled over a head of golden-brown hair. There was a waif-like look about her face, not out of keeping with her ivory skin, but in sharp contrast to a steel-gray glint visible at intervals in her eyes. Perhaps it was the lighting. A small smile played on her lips as she gazed at the work before her: "Venus At Her Toilette. P. Terni. Oil on Cardboard."
"Do you approve?" Alan Blaiser addressed the back of her head.
She did not turn. "I find it amusing," she said.
"Amusing? You find those black and brown contortions amusing? The triangular points of head, elbows and more private anatomical parts of the Goddess of Love amusing?"
Her laughter had the clarity and sweetness of a bell.
"Yes, I see what you mean." He laughed too. "Now Botticelli's Venus is my idea of the goddess, all delicacy and lightness and snake-like charm. Venus should be off limits to abstract art. She's flesh-and-blood illusion, not this."
"Woman is an abstraction, is she not? And Venus is the ultimate woman."
"But woman is flesh. No one thinks of Venus as a disembodied spirit. It's the flesh that matters."
"You sound hungry."
Alan laughed, but reddened. "How do you picture the goddess?"
A faraway look lit her eyes. "I don't picture her any way in particular."
"Got something against the Goddess of Love, have you?"
"Not at all. But mankind's preoccupation with her physical beauty often blinds it to the higher order of beauty she embodies." "Mind over matter, eh? Somehow I don't believe that way of thinking about her will ever take hold."
The young woman smiled. "Don't you believe in the infinite beauty of spirit, the inexhaustible delights of love?"
Alan shifted legs awkwardly. "I can't see myself making love to my — to a woman's spirit. Look, I could use a cup of coffee right now. Why don't you join me? Then you can explain exactly what this is all about. I'm very open-minded; I'd like to learn."
She looked him full in the face. Her eyes were soft and the faint smile reappeared.
"Thank you, no." But she did not drop her eyes, and he felt an unbearable tension.
"Have you seen the 'Orgy'?" Alan blurted out.
They both burst into laughter.
* * *
In the crystal glassware sparkled the pink damask with which Jane had asked Penny to set the table. It was the round table upon which she and Alan dined once a month by candlelight. This was the second time that April that it had been so set, but the cloth was not the turquoise of the earlier date, nor was the candle the tall taper it had been before. Instead, it was a squat and chunky red, not the elegance Jane desired, but the festivity Alan preferred. The white drapes, side-tied in the afternoon, were drawn together now. Quite cozy and intimate, thought Jane with approval.
"Darling, what's this!" exclaimed Alan, as he skipped down the circular staircase of their duplex to the dining alcove below.
Jane removed a stem from the centerpiece and slipped it through his lapel as he stooped to kiss her.
"I assume I'd better cancel our dinner reservation."
"I already did," she said. "My surprise and my apology for this morning. Because I love you."
"You didn't have to go to this trouble. I was foolish this morning."
"Oh, darling, you're such a silly. It was no trouble. And you're never foolish."
"No, of course not. Bring on the hamburgers."
"Beef Stroganoff. "
"And the apple pie."
"And Penny who loves me." Alan lifted his wine glass. "To Penny. And my wife who hired her."
Alan pulled the stopper from the decanter and looked at the magenta swirls within for a long while before pouring the liquid, meeting Jane's glass above the center of the table, and downing the libation.
"Alan, what's the matter?"
"Nothing. Hard day, that's all."
"Are you sure, darling? We can talk about it," she offered.
Alan looked around at the trappings of romance and seemed about to say something. He knew that the unerringly accurate Jane sensed something was wrong. Otherwise, why would she be willing to break one of the rules of their monthly interludes — no business discussions? You couldn't fool Jane. He had never really wanted to.
"I met a beautiful girl in your gallery this morning," he said solemnly. "She looked a bit like this candle."
Jane choked with laughter, and Alan sprang to her side, thumping her on the back and begging her to raise her hands above her head.
"I'm all right," she gasped, still mirthful. "It's just a carryover from this afternoon. I was nearly in hysterics at lunch today. Even Maggie French was shocked. You see, Flower Children sent Vanessa. The dialogue went something like this:
'Why do you denigrate your flowers?'
'Why do I what?' Maggie was aghast.
'You bring out the symbolic worst in them. Why?'
Maggie was indulgent. 'Flowers have no personality and character of their own, other than what the beholder endows them with, and I've used traditional symbolism. I'm not a radical.'
'Why not? Think of all the delicious statements you could make if you were. You could discover the dandelion, take a brush to the cockscomb, display the naked beauty of the cactus, and let the dahlia in its various incarnations color the sun, moon, stars.'
'Now look here Miss —'
'Miss Vanessa! My art, like all good art, reflects life. My viewers can identify with my flowers.'
'That's too bad, since you emphasize their negative attributes. Why must your roses and lilies be accompanied by thorns? Surely there is more to sunflowers than the agony of Van Gogh's conception, which you seem to admire. If you do not wish to show undiluted satisfaction, unalloyed fulfillment — quite a radical concept for mortals — why do you not at least show a balance? How do you expect to lift your audience higher?'
'I send the messages I receive. I'm sharing my view of flowers with others. I'm not trying to uplift anyone. Didactic art is the worst kind, and so are didactic reporters!'
Vanessa smiled sweetly. 'Do you like flowers?'
Maggie turned to me with a menacing growl.
'She's playing the devil's advocate with you,' I whispered. 'It's called aggressive reporting.'
Well, that mollified her somewhat, but it was all I could do to keep from doubling up with laughter. And Alan, Vanessa was such a sight! A dumpy-looking little thing with dark hair and big eyes. And clothes — like something out of Vogue 1940! "
Alan chuckled. "A provincial pedant in the big city. Poor kid. Probably her first assignment."
"And maybe her last, if Maggie has her way. She'd deserve it, too, unless she's kept on the payroll for comic relief. She's unreal." "Just a country hick in a chunky brown coat, a kid with a porcelain complexion framed by a woolen hat."
"Darling," Jane exclaimed, as Penny entered with the appetizer. "You're exactly right! Oh, don't look so startled; it's a wonderful sign." She reached for his hands. "It means we're so close we can read each other's thoughts."
* * *
"We've run out of things to talk about, Dr. Schmeck. At our last tête à tête we were reduced to discussing the real world."
"And that is bad? "
"Alan is a romantic. Routine bores him. He must be able to escape periodically into storybook fantasy and adventure."
"These candlelit dinners are a regular feature each month?"
"Yes, doctor, I see what you mean. Even our romance has become routine. But what am I to do? Theoretically, creativity should be inexhaustible, so if I put my mind to it I suppose I could come up with an infinite number of ways to keep Alan amused, but I haven't the time."
Excerpted from Enter Venus by Sondra Luger. Copyright © 2016 Sondra Luger. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.