By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
With a nod to James Joyce (Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man), novelist, entertainer and playwright Eric Bogosian has crafted a fictional probe into the psyche of the artist that is both pitiless and hilarious.
His protagonist, Richard Morris, a middle-aged (57) Jewish writer, pretty sure his creative glory days are over, attends an awards ceremony at the invitation of his longtime editor and publisher, Leon, where he is passed over by another novelist. Richard’s soured attitude towards his less-than-brilliant career, the publishing business and the characters of writers and mankind in general is evident in his musing on the occasion. “Does your stuff SELL? Why would anyone be doing this, making all this effort if not to sell millions of ‘units’ so that the author-hero can become a wealthy author-hero! Then the author-hero can attend more dinners and receive more awards and sell more movie options to the corporate leviathans and spend more time at more Hampton get-togethers to cluck and kiss the other author heroes’ bronzed cheeks, dazzled by the reflection of the collective genius present. The artist is the antenna of the race and the race is venal and hollow.”
Richard, childless, never married and “fixed” (so as not to be trapped by a chance pregnancy), nevertheless, has not been precisely alone. He has a current girlfriend, Sarah, approximately half his age, and examines, as though searching for a sore tooth that’s never been yanked, the demise of a 15-year relationship with Elizabeth, a beautiful and successful actress who dumped him.
Bogosian uses the device of Richard’s youthful journals from the ’70s, discovered while on a visit to his ailing father, to create a double portrait of his protagonist. The reader comes to know both the young, inexperienced and ambitious writer on the make in the Big Apple and the seasoned, cynical, though still faintly wistful, much-published writer in the present, who owns an apartment on the Upper West Side and a country home in Connecticut, the latter, fruits of his success.