Friday, August 26, 2011

The Opposite of Art by Athol Dickson

Ridler is a painter, a genius. He has an argument with his girlfriend, Suzanna, and she returns to her apartment in Harlem. Ridler goes after her but is knocked off a bridge, drowns, comes up on shore and after a long time, comes back to life.
He is forever changed. He has seen the Glory and will desperately try to paint it. He will always fall short.
Wandering the streets he is picked up by hippies and lives with them for a while. The world thinks Ridler is dead.
He goes to Suzanna's street and misinterprets the hug he sees her receiving from the gallery owner. He believes he has lost her.  He finds that his apartment has been packed up. All his paintings are gone.
Years later Ridler is a story teller in a circus. Through his stories we find he has investigated Buddhism, moved to Thailand and lived on the beach. He did not find the Glory. He worked on steamers. He lived in Istanbul and sold sketches in the market. He studied the Sufi path but did not find the Glory. He moved to Tel Aviv.
It was suggested only Christians could paint the glory so he went to Rome. In the Sistine Chapel he saw “scribbles,” “mere fable, merely flesh for Glory.” In a frenzy he chalks a forty foot image along the sidewalk. Others gasp but for him it was only another failure. As the rain (tears of heaven) begin to wash the pigment, Ridler has another glimpse of the Glory.
An ancient yet timeless woman asks to to come with her, to join the circus. Ridler sends new paintings to those he has hurt. On the opposite side of the canvas, he asks for their forgiveness.
Suzanna receives one and is convinced Ridler is still alive. The daughter he did not know he had begins to trace him down. There is also a murderer trying to find Ridler. Ridler alive would make his paintings worth much less.

This is the first novel I have read by Dickson. It is a pleasant mix between reality, fantasy, symbolism, spiritual vision, imagery, and what else? It is a novel with a story yet it is an adventure into the meaning of life. It is a book with characters yet the characters are principles or desires. There is seamless movement from reality on the planet to reality in the spirit. There is the interweaving of the present and the past.
I don't know how to describe it other than to say I thoroughly enjoyed it and will certainly read more from him. Evangelical Christians may be disappointed that the gospel is not clearly presented but it is present in a sort of hovering way.

See the author's blog:

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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