Top Shelf: Spring, art, and murder

Things That Go Together: Art & Murder

by Payton Turner

If you're looking to be wildly fascinated, deeply disturbed, and mildly entertained, boy do I have the perfect combination of books for you.

Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear

A thorough dive into the triumphant, visionary, and pastoral world of Beatrix Potter. Did you know that it's thanks to her work that England possesses 4000 acres in the Lake District considered AONB (protected by the National Trust)? Not only a prolific illustrator, draftswoman, and author, Potter was also a conservationist and an active, visionary participant in local government. I'll never forget the first time I saw a Beatrix Potter watercolor in real life. Of course, I grew up delighting in her books, and being fascinated (slightly horrified) by cartoon TV versions of her stories because her main characters are constantly being put inside all-too-real pies and roly-poly puddings. Somehow the cartoon versions really shocked me, whereas the books seemed much more innocent and sweet. I digress. Seeing her drawing and painting skills in reality skyrocketed my already high opinion and awe of her. Her line work is so sensitive, so alive. It's truly amazing. After seeing her bunny painting protesting German made toys in 2016 at the V&A in London, I went down a rabbit hole of learning everything I could about her life. If you too wish to visit the fascinating warren of her life, I suggest you pick up a copy of Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature. Prepare to be impressed.

Mrs. March by Virginia Feito

My book club read this a few months ago but my copy showed up recently. It's nice being part of a book club that doesn't nail you every time you don't finish the book on time! I finally finished this novel, and was mostly horrified the entire time. I mean, again, I felt a mix of fascination and horror, which seems to be the theme of my reading life these days. It's a well written book. I think my general dislike of the book stems from the fact that we have a few unreliable narrators in America's government and media right now, so it's hard for me to stomach another one at the moment. Even if she's fictional. That, and women suffering nervous breakdowns generally hits me as a touchy subject (for humor/satire) in the context of how women have been gaslit, oppressed, and mistreated through history. I'm a literal and serious reader these days, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. There are delightful character developments and intriguing specificity about the literary world, contemporary marriage, and New York City in this book, it's just not really how my brain likes to read anymore. At least, not since the pandemic hit it. I'm sure my habits and preferences will change again. Anyway, I'd pick up a copy of Mrs. March and prepare to be sucked in, confused but enjoyably so, and spit out.

Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him by Danielle Ganek

I first read this in 2008 after graduating from art school and loved it. It was a satisfyingly eventful and somewhat snarky sneaky peek into a world that had and (currently, at the time) was rejecting me. As a miffed 22 year old, I allowed myself to feel momentarily smug about my decision to try honest restaurant work instead of aiming fruitlessly for any position in a blue chip gallery. I decided to pick it up and re-read it this past month, and it still entertained me, though mildly so. It didn't age as well as I had hoped it would but remains a nice time capsule of the 2000s art world. A lightweight but pointed look inside the machinery of the fine art world that's sure to interest even the most jaded art school grads.

Payton Turner

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