Summary and book reviews of Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

Feast Your Eyes

by Myla Goldberg

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg X
Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2019, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

The first novel in nearly a decade from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season - a compelling and wholly original story about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood, a balancing act familiar to women of every generation.

Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art, tells the life story of Lillian Preston: "America's Worst Mother, America's Bravest Mother, America's Worst Photographer, or America's Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking." After discovering photography as a teenager through her high school's photo club, Lillian rejects her parents' expectations of college and marriage and moves to New York City in 1955. When a small gallery exhibits partially nude photographs of Lillian and her daughter Samantha, Lillian is arrested, thrust into the national spotlight, and targeted with an obscenity charge. Mother and daughter's sudden notoriety changes the course of both of their lives and especially Lillian's career as she continues a life-long quest for artistic legitimacy and recognition.

Narrated by Samantha, Feast Your Eyes reads as a collection of Samantha's memories, interviews with Lillian's friends and lovers, and excerpts from Lillian's journals and letters - a collage of stories and impressions, together amounting to an astounding portrait of a mother and an artist dedicated, above all, to a vision of beauty, truth, and authenticity.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel itself is the catalogue from Lillian Preston's photography exhibit at MoMA. What do we gain from this nontraditional narrative framing? Does it grant us better insight into the characters? The photography?
  2. The catalogue begins: "Feast your eyes, America. Here she is: America's Worst Mother, America's Bravest Mother, America's Worst Photographer, or America's Greatest Photographer." What does this proclamation reveal about the expectations of women as mothers and artists? How does it set the stage for what unfolds?
  3. On page 32, it's noted that Lillian's portraits, which often featured nudity, "were a way for her to study what lay at the core of people." How does this concept of nudity differ from that of a male artist depicting ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Feast Your Eyes will undoubtably win Goldberg many well-deserved accolades; her gorgeous writing, compelling subject, and ingenious format make the novel a true stand-out. It will appeal to those who enjoy literary, character-driven novels, and would also make a wonderful book group selection...continued

Full Review (611 words).

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Goldberg’s passionate depiction of Lillian rings heartbreakingly true...At times, Goldberg crosses the slender line between clever and cute — too many characters refer to their fathers as 'Pops' and speak in a style of contorted irony. The constraints of the catalog form, hinging on descriptions of photographs we cannot see and Samantha’s labored contemplations of how Lillian might have composed them, grow tedious as the novel wears on. Though the novel’s plot hinges on the obscenity trial, its most powerful moments arrive in the form of Lillian’s wrenchingly intimate reflections in her journal.

Newsday
With cleverness and imagination, vivid historical detail and great heart, this catalog tells the story of Lillian's life...Lillian Preston also represents an exciting turn of events in the career of her creator, Myla Goldberg, [who] has reemerged with a stunning success, what feels like the book she was always meant to write...Through its intense focus on a series of photographs, a group of quirky characters and a particular time in our cultural history, Feast Your Eyes becomes a universal and profound story of love and loss.

BookPage
Like a photograph that captures the inner light of its subject, Feast Your Eyes catches such moments on the page, il­luminating the power of both beauty and heartbreak. Goldberg unsparingly reveals a driven artist whose propulsive talent is also her Achilles’ heel.

Publishers Weekly
This is a memorable portrait of one artist's life.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A riveting portrait of an artist who happens to be a woman.

Booklist (starred review)
This is a novel of infinite depth, of caring authenticity both intimate and societal, of mothers and daughters, art and pain, and transcendent love.

Author Blurb Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End and To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
This is an unflinching, deeply moving portrait of the artist, and a bravura performance in and of itself. I loved this book.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Controversial 20th Century Female Photographers

Lillian Preston, the photographer at the heart of Feast Your Eyes, is fictional, but there are a number of controversial 20th century female photographers on whom she could be based, including Diane Arbus (1923-1971), Irina Ionesco (b.1930) and Sally Mann (b.1951).

Diane ArbusBorn Diane Nemerov, 18-year-old Diane Arbus received her first camera from her husband Allan shortly after their marriage. Together they opened a photography studio after WWII and sold their photos to magazines such as Vogue, but neither really enjoyed the work. Arbus eventually turned her attention to less structured, more spontaneous photography, roaming the streets of New York City with her camera. Esquire published her first photo essay in 1960, after which she gained ...

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Readalikes

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