Feast Your Eyes

Feast Your Eyes

2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Finalist The first novel in nearly a decade from Myla Goldberg, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Bee Season—a compelling and wholly original story about a female photographer grappling with ambition and motherhood, a balancing act familiar to women of every generation.Feast Your Eyes, framed as the catalogue...

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Title:Feast Your Eyes
Author:Myla Goldberg
Rating:

Feast Your Eyes Reviews

  • Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog:

    'Just as I was beginning to worry that waiting was all there would ever be, I picked up a camera- but you know this already.'

    Myla Goldberg states in her acknowledgements that she was inspired by the life and work of people like Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, and Harold Feinstein (just to name a few) and it certainly shows in the creation of her fictional character, Lillian Preston. This novel is beautiful, we are able to feast our own eyes on

    via my blog:

    'Just as I was beginning to worry that waiting was all there would ever be, I picked up a camera- but you know this already.'

    Myla Goldberg states in her acknowledgements that she was inspired by the life and work of people like Diane Arbus, Sally Mann, and Harold Feinstein (just to name a few) and it certainly shows in the creation of her fictional character, Lillian Preston. This novel is beautiful, we are able to feast our own eyes on subjects Lillian photographs as much as the life of a photographer. Rather than stating someone is a photographer, the reader is witness to the inspiration and expression of Lillian’s passions, of breaking out of her ‘cage’ when she was young, and the consequences self-expression through art costs her child and parents, anyone that is both inside or outside her orbit. Feast Your Eyes is a love story of pictures but more so of mother and daughter and it isn’t always pretty. The ending gutted me, as a mother and as a daughter because I could feel the pain of both, all the regrets.

    Lillian is born with hungry eyes, her purpose is to strip people naked through her series of work, sometimes shocking and vulgar making her the ‘Worse Mother in the World’ and other times going without notice. A field trip when she is young, a ‘rocket in her chest’ when she sees photographs hanging in museums, a pivotal moment shaping her future, Lillian knows she will one day have her own upon such walls. Her reasons are never about attention seeking nor fame, but always telling a story, as with her most infamous photos which her daughter is haunted by. Samantha is mostly nude in the damaging series, but worse is Lillian’s abortion photo. Having grown up in the fifties, being on ‘photo safaris’ in the streets of New York Samantha grows up free to roam the city, a child that is fiercely loved by Lillian (there is no doubt about that) but whose mother’s focus is always first and foremost her camera. Her work is her life, as vital as oxygen.

    “Mommy is sick”, at least a judge rules it to be true but those ‘vulgar photos verging on the pornographic (according to some)’ don’t make up the majority of Lillian’s work, so much overlooked because it isn’t ‘shocking’. The novel finds Samantha cataloging her mother’s work for a show, as Lillian is no longer alive. We journey through the memories, the friends, the strangers and the bond between Samantha and Lillian that sours and forces Samantha’s disappearance from her mother’s life. “Mommy is sick” ends up being a precursor of sorts, but I won’t go into that. Her notoriety ruins her chances for a successful career, but still… her work continues. It is the story of artist, subjects and what it means to come of age beside a creative genius, whether the rest of the world acknowledges their gift with praise or in horror labels said artist as a degenerate. It is fiercely engaging, and Lillian is ahead of her time, as many artists are. Her eyes feast upon the world and tell stories, ‘jolt’ viewers by exposing both the obvious and unseen. In strangers, we recognize ourselves, our pride, anger, poverty, love, sickness, strength… every situation and emotion one can scrape up on the streets. Her camera is there, a witness like God, to the very last blink of Lillian’s life- that is one of the most beautiful endings I’ve read. It’s not about the posing for her, it’s not about showing the world or people as they wish to be seen but instead, as they really are.

    Of course Samantha changes as she grows up, no longer an extension of her mother like the camera. As Lillian once removed herself from her own parents and their ordinary life in Cleveland, knowing she was meant ‘live differently from others’, her own girl craves stability, affection when she learns she has grandparents. That her girl could come from her body and be so vastly different is all too familiar a truth mothers must accept. Samantha and Lillian are the biggest love story in the novel, going between immense affection to resentment (Samantha), testing the waters of teenage angst, Samantha must remove herself to understand who she is without Lillian, acts out as most children do, as a form of punishment, assuming her mother is immortal and will always be there to make up with. Those photos return and drive a deep wedge.

    There is a lot of story in the cataloging, and the photographs are beautifully described to the point of painting it in the reader’s mind. It’s a bohemian life, but not for show as it was for some people during certain decades, trying so hard to be ‘other than’. Lillian really is an original, and being different is always a sore spot for children. Samantha struggles with embracing and rejecting her mother as artist, but it can be no other way, for it is her mother’s very makeup. There is a line that expresses the period of time Samantha shucks off her mother, “in the spirit of self-destruction and self-discovery”, for it can be no other way.

    Somehow this novel manages to be many things and Goldberg keeps it all flowing. My heart broke at the end, it’s too close to recent losses in my life. I really caught my breath at the writing, Lillian’s final moments are so much in keeping with her character. I don’t know if my review is doing this novel the justice it deserves, all I can say is I loved it. Most people fancy themselves photographers these days and it goes without saying there is an over abundance of artifice with selfies, it’s evident so many of the pictures we see are manufactured and that makes this story all the more appealing, because there is an authenticity to Lillian that does honor to the work of people like Diane Arbus. Artists who are using their medium to relate to the world, to explain it or question it in the only way they can. It can seem shallow at times, certainly a compulsion but one must recognize it is used to express love as well, as with any pictures of Samantha. One must consider the self, and how desperately Samantha wants to be her own person, it’s so hard to do when your mother has always defined you it’s just sad what it costs her, time that can’t be given back.

    Yes read it!

    Publication Date: April 16, 2019

    Scribner

  • Drew

    Absolutely loved this. A story of photography, of New York, of art, of mothers and daughters, of love and time. Goldberg's structure is a joy, and I thrilled to imagine each of the 118 photographs -- but to also see the exploration of Lillian Preston as a person, as told through her own writings and the thoughts of others. It doesn't feel entirely like a traditional gallery guide, but maybe gallery guides ought to feel more like this than they currently do, you know?

  • Cheri

    Lillian’s love of photography began through her high school photo club, and her love led to a desire to pursue her passion, hoping that one day she would be working as a photographer for a magazine or newspaper. Shortly after her graduation, she forgoes her parents’ plans

    Lillian’s love of photography began through her high school photo club, and her love led to a desire to pursue her passion, hoping that one day she would be working as a photographer for a magazine or newspaper. Shortly after her graduation, she forgoes her parents’ plans for her to attend college and moves to New York City in the mid-1950s.

    Her story is shared, in part, as a catalog of a photography exhibit, so you are able to see much of her life through her eyes and her vision of capture-worthy moments, her journal entries as well as letters, interviews of friends and lovers, and through her daughter’s eyes and memories. There is in one way, Lillian’s personal story, her journey to become the photographer that would not only shoot beautiful photographs, but one that could share a truth that would move people, never imagining her work would alienate them.

    Inspired by photographers such as Sally Mann, Diane Arbus and the stories of their struggles as females, as well as female photographers in an era when that was an anomaly, the main story of this is one that Sally Mann is perhaps more associated with. An innocent photograph of a young girl, in Lillian’s case her daughter Samantha, wearing underwear only, is photographed. Sally Mann photographed her children at play, sometimes without clothing, and the description of the censored photograph in Lillian’s story closely matches the newspaper article that followed one of Mann’s photographs on a 1990 cover of

    , a photography magazine. The Wall Street Journal, using the same photograph of Mann’s daughter Virginia, placed black bars across her eyes, her chest and her groin, when publishing a decidedly damning article which was written, oddly, by a food critic. Mann’s daughter, Virginia, wrote a letter, in return, saying simply:

    Keeping in mind that there is less nudity in the photograph taken by Lillian than in the Coppertone billboards that used to populate the entire USA from the 1950s on - featuring a little blonde girl with pigtails, wearing the bottom half of a swimsuit, and a puppy pulling that down – the reaction to the photograph in question might seem questionable, but there is also a story behind the photograph that triggers the headline

    in a pre-Roe v Wade era.

    The politics of public opinion, and the unequal opportunities afforded women are focused on in a more obvious way, but underlying this is a story of love and passion, a love and passion for doing what we love and loving what we do, what brings us joy, shapes our lives. How those we love can build us up, or bend us and sometimes even break us, and how to rebuild that which has been bent and broken. The bond between mothers and daughters that is sometimes frayed beyond measure, but is always a part of who we become.

    Lovely, if sometimes heartbreaking, I loved this story, fell completely under its spell, and highly recommend it. I’m pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in the last pages.

    Pub Date: 16 Apr 2019

    Many thanks for the ARC provided by Scribner

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Feast Your Eyes is the story of photographer and mother, Lillian Preston.

    Lillian connects to photography in high school when she participates in photo club. Her parents have expectations that she’ll attend college and get married as women do in the 1950s. Instead, Lillian moves to New York City to pursue her photography dreams.

    A small gallery displays semi-nude photos of Lillian and her young daughter, Samantha, which ends in Lillian being arrested

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Feast Your Eyes is the story of photographer and mother, Lillian Preston.

    Lillian connects to photography in high school when she participates in photo club. Her parents have expectations that she’ll attend college and get married as women do in the 1950s. Instead, Lillian moves to New York City to pursue her photography dreams.

    A small gallery displays semi-nude photos of Lillian and her young daughter, Samantha, which ends in Lillian being arrested and known throughout all the media channels. The attention they receive changes the courses of both of their lives, and Lillian is forever on a quest to legitimize her artistry and talent.

    Samantha is the narrator of the novel, and she writes of her memories. Lillian’s friends and lovers are interviewed. There are journal entries and letters as well, which all add to the interest and intrigue with this story. All of this comes together into a glorious picture of a woman who seeks to do it all and is criticized for it all. A real woman, a relatable woman, and formidable one.

    Overall, this an exceptionally told story of the court of public opinion, how it changes lives for good and bad, but beyond that, this is a story of real woman seeking love in her personal life but also in her field of which she adores. This is a gorgeous book, and I’m so grateful to have been affected by it.

    Thank you to my friend, Cheri, for the beautiful review that inspired me to read this book.

    I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

    Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog:

  • Melissa Dee

    What a beautiful book. I was dubious about the conceit of writing the novel in the form of a museum catalogue, but Goldberg handled this so well. In my memory, I see the photos she described as if they were part of the novel itself. From the annotations of Lillian’s journal, her daughter’s interviews with roommates, parents and lovers, and the daughter’s own memories, we come to know so many facets of the woman as she developed over time.

    "Some mornings I’m so heavy with dread I can hardly move.

    What a beautiful book. I was dubious about the conceit of writing the novel in the form of a museum catalogue, but Goldberg handled this so well. In my memory, I see the photos she described as if they were part of the novel itself. From the annotations of Lillian’s journal, her daughter’s interviews with roommates, parents and lovers, and the daughter’s own memories, we come to know so many facets of the woman as she developed over time.

    "Some mornings I’m so heavy with dread I can hardly move.” What mother hasn’t felt like that at some point? And Lillian has so much talent and such a compelling drive to exercise that talent. It is hard to imagine her choosing to share her life with a child, and yet how impossible to imagine her life without her daughter Samantha in it.

    The characters in “Feast Your Eyes” are multi-dimensional and sympathetic. I very much look forward to the publication of this novel and to discussing it with others.

    I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  • Andrea

    Read

    long ago and eagerly anticipated this book. 4.5 but rounding up. A truly impactful book.--sometimes difficult to read because it was so full of raw emotion.

    A story of dysfunction, photography, mothers and daughters, relationships, and more. Social mores and social change. The '60s and '70s; this book is chock full of everything.

    Written as a catalogue [but so much more] of the late Lillian/Lilly Preston's photographs by her daughter, Samantha/Jane, with intervening dialogue

    Read

    long ago and eagerly anticipated this book. 4.5 but rounding up. A truly impactful book.--sometimes difficult to read because it was so full of raw emotion.

    A story of dysfunction, photography, mothers and daughters, relationships, and more. Social mores and social change. The '60s and '70s; this book is chock full of everything.

    Written as a catalogue [but so much more] of the late Lillian/Lilly Preston's photographs by her daughter, Samantha/Jane, with intervening dialogue from friends.

    The first quarter was somewhat of a struggle, but it was so beautifully written that I took my time and slowly got into the rhythm and became more engaged. Some of the descriptions were breathtaking:

    "grim treadmill of adolescence"

    "...taken us for a pair of deaf-mutes, considering how thorough we weren't speaking to each other"

    "her eyes reached out to me like hands" and more.

    The latter third of the book I couldn't put down. I particularly loved the descriptions and interactions between Samantha and her grandparents. Vivid.

    My only disconnect was I thought one [small] part too contrived--I saw it coming and wondered why it was necessary. And the last part of the book seems very sped up considering the pacing of all that preceded it.

    But highly recommend. Take your time to read and savor it.

  • Deborah

    In her latest novel, Goldberg tries something new: writing the entire book in the form of a photography exhibition catalog--yet we never see a single photograph. The gallery number, title, and date of each photo appear, followed by commentary by the artist's daughter, friends and ex-lovers, and letters and journal entries written by the artist herself. The works range from the 1950s, when Lillian Preston rejects her parents' plan for her college education and moves to New York to pursue her

    In her latest novel, Goldberg tries something new: writing the entire book in the form of a photography exhibition catalog--yet we never see a single photograph. The gallery number, title, and date of each photo appear, followed by commentary by the artist's daughter, friends and ex-lovers, and letters and journal entries written by the artist herself. The works range from the 1950s, when Lillian Preston rejects her parents' plan for her college education and moves to New York to pursue her passion in photography, to her death from leukemia in 1977. A quiet woman, Lillian nevertheless manages to choose her own path. When she finds herself pregnant at 19, she declines an abortion at the last minute and rejects her parents' offer to "help" (by sending her off to a distant relative to have the child and give it up for adoption). She struggles to keep herself and her daughter Samantha afloat financially, even rejecting another offer of marriage, but she never stops taking photos. A breaking point almost comes when a small gallery show results in arrest and obscenity charges over "the Samantha series" that depicts Lillian's daughter in semi-undress. These include what becomes an infamous photo, "Mommy Is Sick," in which Samantha offers a glass of milk to her bedridden, bloodstained mother whop has just had an abortion. (No spoilers here--the photo and the incident are described in the novel's first pages.) The incident caused changes in the mother-daughter relationship that are the focus of most of the novel. In that sense, it is a coming of age novel, but it also tackles questions about parenting, art, friendship, and morality. Mann draws on cultural keystones throughout: the Beats, Sputnik, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War protests, punk rock, Saturday Night Live. The structure provides a means of presenting multiple points of view without the usual practice of ascribing alternating chapters to different narrators. As a result, the conflicts between and feelings of each character are more immediate.

    It has been almost a decade since Goldberg's last book, but 'Feast Your Eyes' is well worth the wait.

  • Robert Blumenthal

    Five huge stars from me for this one. After finishing this wonderful novel, I asked how could I possibly not have heard of Myla Goldberg before--especially since one of her previous novels got turned into a film starring Richard Gere. Apparently, this novel came ten years after her previous one (no Joyce Carol Oates, this one), and she hit it out of the park as far as I'm concerned.

    It is an unusual format. It is written as a catalog of the works of a photographer named Lillian, assembled by her

    Five huge stars from me for this one. After finishing this wonderful novel, I asked how could I possibly not have heard of Myla Goldberg before--especially since one of her previous novels got turned into a film starring Richard Gere. Apparently, this novel came ten years after her previous one (no Joyce Carol Oates, this one), and she hit it out of the park as far as I'm concerned.

    It is an unusual format. It is written as a catalog of the works of a photographer named Lillian, assembled by her daughter Smantha. Included are snippets from friends and associates that Samantha gets in touch with, along with writings from a journal kept by the mother. It is essentially a story of a compulsive artist who essentially lives to simply take pictures, most of them on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn. However, Lillian's and Samantha's lives are upended when she displays pictures of her daughter and herself in the nude. This must have been patterned after the work of Sally Mann, a famous photographer from Virginia who riled the local folk after publishing a book of her three children in somewhat erotic poses.

    The relationship between the mother and daughter is quite strained, and then Samantha starts down a road that borders on juvenile delinquency. However, when her mother becomes gravely ill, there is somewhat of a reconnection between mother and daughter, though the mother's photography obsession and the fallout from the naked pictures always seem to get in the way of a complete reconciliation.

    The novel is beautifully written and the construction is strong throughout. Every section is heralded by the title of a particular photograph, and it is all done in strict chronological order. I found it to be very readable, and very compelling. And the end is profoundly moving. What could have been maudlin is handled very adeptly with much subtlety and little melodrama. It was truly one of the better reads I have had in a while.

  • Marcy

    4.5 - This to me was a sad story of missed cues and opportunities between a mother and daughter who desperately needed each other’s love and couldn’t seem to connect. The format used to relate the story was a great way to make what would have been a slow story move along and add depth to the characters. At times I felt claustrophobic with the obsessive behaviors of Lilly and couldn’t imagine living with that. I loved the time period of the 60’ and 70’s and thought she did a really good job

    4.5 - This to me was a sad story of missed cues and opportunities between a mother and daughter who desperately needed each other’s love and couldn’t seem to connect. The format used to relate the story was a great way to make what would have been a slow story move along and add depth to the characters. At times I felt claustrophobic with the obsessive behaviors of Lilly and couldn’t imagine living with that. I loved the time period of the 60’ and 70’s and thought she did a really good job representing the time period. This was a powerful read and made me think about my relationship with my mother; good and bad.

  • Robert Sheard

    This is the a story of a photographer and her daughter. But the form is unique. It's 13 years after the photographer's death and there's a retrospective show of her work. The novel is the catalog for that show's 118 photographs. The catalog is written by her daughter and includes excerpts from the photographer's journal (written to her daughter), and interviews with other significant figures from the photographer's life.

    What develops (see what I did there?) is a powerful portrait (oops, did it

    This is the a story of a photographer and her daughter. But the form is unique. It's 13 years after the photographer's death and there's a retrospective show of her work. The novel is the catalog for that show's 118 photographs. The catalog is written by her daughter and includes excerpts from the photographer's journal (written to her daughter), and interviews with other significant figures from the photographer's life.

    What develops (see what I did there?) is a powerful portrait (oops, did it again) of a photographer who breaks new ground by challenging the norms of the art form, but who unwittingly creates a scandal and suffers again and again as her art comes between her daughter and herself.

    By the end, it's quite poignant and heartbreaking. It's been a decade since Goldberg's last novel, and I believe it has been worth the wait to receive this one.

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