Laguna author premieres new book

Novelist Andrew Winer credits his failure as an artist with inspiring his new novel.

"'The Marriage Artist's' contemporary storyline originated, in part, from failure: my failure to make it as an artist in New York," Winer wrote in an online biography. "For roughly five years, through various series of figurative art, I had pursued one question that in many ways I'm still asking as a writer: can one create contemporary works that speak to our time while still casting a light in whose shadows one may catch brief glimpses, almost as if by accident, of beauty and timelessness?"

Winer will hold a discussion and sign copies of his book at 2 p.m. Nov. 13 at Laguna Beach Books, 1200 S. Coast Hwy.

In his second novel, which was released last week by Henry Holt and Company, the artist and art critic-turned-writer tells the story of two mysterious deaths, which unlock one man's past and another's future in a tale of art, love and history.

When the wife of renowned art critic Daniel Lichtmann plunges to her death, she is not alone. Lying next to her is her suspected lover, Benjamin Wind, the very artist Daniel most championed. Tormented by questions about the circumstances of their deaths, Daniel dedicates himself to uncovering the secrets of their relationship and the inspiration behind Wind's dazzling final exhibition.

What Daniel discovers is a web of mysteries leading back to pre-World War II Vienna and the magnificent life of Josef Pick, a forgotten artist who may have been the twentieth century's greatest painter of love. But the most astonishing discovery is what connects these two artists across half a century: a remarkable woman whose response to the tragedy of her generation offers Daniel answers to the questions he never knew to ask.

The Manhattan native, who devoted his earlier years to painting, said he wanted to make art a central focus of his book.

"Prior to starting this project, I attended a family wedding and was drawn to the illuminated Ketubah," he said. "It made me realize how fascinated I am by the way art is connected to peoples' lives."

Other themes Winer said he addresses in the novel are the necessity and impossibility of marriage, knotted entanglement of sex and death, intrinsic need to know and be known, political and moral uncertainty and our efforts to leave a mark of our love in the world.

"It tells the story of a family dramatically reshaped by the quest for personal freedom in the face of inherited beliefs, public prejudices, and the unfathomable turns of history," he said. "It is at once a provocative snapshot of contemporary marriage, the recovery of a passion that history never recorded, and a fierce reminder of the way we enlist love in our perpetual search for meaning and permanence."

Winer teaches at UC Riverside, where he has directed the master of fine arts program in creative writing. He is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in fiction. His first novel, "The Color Midnight Made," a tale of a 10-year-old white boy being growing up in an all-black community, was published in 2002.

He resides in Laguna Beach with his wife and fellow novelist, Charmaine Craig and their two daughters.

To reserve a copy of "The Marriage Artist," call (949) 494-4779.

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