The following interview was originally done for the BSC Review:
Robert Freeman Wexler’s latest novel is The Painting And The City, out from PS Publishing, and it was recently named one of the top 10 science fiction novels of 2009 by Booklist. He has also published a novella, In Springdale Town, (PS Publishing 2003 and reprinted in Best Short Novels 2004, SFBC, and in Modern Greats of Science Fiction, iBooks), a novel, Circus Of The Grand Design (Prime Books 2004), and a chapbook of short fiction, Psychological Methods To Sell Should Be Destroyed (Spilt Milk Press/Electric Velocipede 2008). The following interview was conducted by Brendan Connell via Skype and e-mail during the month of June, 2010.
Brendan Connell: The Painting and the City takes place in New York. Obviously there are many novels that take place in this particular city, but what was your reason for choosing it as the setting?
Robert Freeman Wexler: I actually can’t remember ever thinking about it being set anywhere else. A notebook entry from when I first started thinking about the story puts it in a quasi Latin American setting, but that wasn’t something I considered seriously. The main reason has to do with an earlier story, The Green Wall, which appeared in Polyphony 5. In that story a man is working in an art gallery in New York. The current exhibit is a painter and a sculptor. Although The Green Wall is older, I started working on The Painting and the City before I found a publisher for the story, so I turned the sculptor from the story into Jacob Lerner, the sculptor/main character of The Painting and the City. I think the way it happened is that I was envisioning Lerner’s art and realized that the art I described in the story was Lerner’s, and then put Lerner’s name into the story. The gallery in The Green Wall is based on a gallery and gallery owner I knew when I lived in New York. Even with such a specific basis I didn’t have to set the novel there, but it felt natural.
Brendan Connell: Is there any specific artist Jacob Lerner is based on?
Robert Freeman Wexler: No. As an artist, he has bits of people I’ve known. As a character, he has bits of me. I knew a sculptor who lived in Manhattan and taught at Rutgers, which was a pretty long train ride—I figured Lerner could do that too. The art I described isn’t from anything that I’ve seen, and I tried not to be too specific in describing the art. I didn’t want to use words to recreate a visual object. I think that would have been confusing, and boring. My first description of what Lerner is working on: “a small bronze with the appearance of a distorted cage, burst open at the top from the inside” is specific because of the word cage, but anything more about how it looks depends on the reader. As an artist, Lerner knows it’s a cage. If it was a real sculpture by a real artist, and people were looking at it in a gallery, some might think cage, some might think something else. The way I visualized the art, and the way I described it, are both abstract enough to allow interpretation. Read the rest of this entry »