In the vibrant downtown Manhattan art world of the 1960s, where men and women collide in “lucky and unlucky convergences,” a series of love affairs has left Joanna Gold, a young photographer, feeling numbed. Then, at yet another party, a painter named Tom Murphy walks up to her. “Why do you hang back?” he asks.
Rather than another brief collision, their relationship is the profound and ecstatic love each had longed to find. But it’s undermined by Tom’s harrowing past—his fatherless childhood, his wartime experiences, and most of all, the loss of the two children he left behind in Florida, along with the powerful red, white, and black paintings he will never set eyes on again. Tom, both tender and volatile, draws Joanna into the unwinnable struggle against the forces that drive him toward death.
Once again, Joyce Johnson brings to life a mythic bohemian world where art is everything and life is as full of intensity and risk as the bold sweep of a painter’s brush across a canvas.
A New York Times Notable Book
Excerpted in the New Yorker and Harper’s Magazine