Magnet’s best moments come as he shows how ideas crystallize into harmful dogmas. A character’s obsession with Objectivism turns him into an egoist ready to toss aside anything “irrational,” including relationships and schoolwork. David uses fundamentalism to justify his increasingly violent behavior, including stalking, insulting his teacher, loudly disrupting a performance, and sexually assaulting his ex-girlfriend. This makes his eventual vindication troubling.
The prose sometimes falls into didacticism, and the fist-shaking disparagement of contemporary art could alienate some readers. Those who push through will see intriguing questions being asked about the unquestioned dominance of styles now a century old, the ability of any single artist to shake norms, and the connections between creativity and mental illness. The artist group’s disintegration highlights the struggles of those who swim against the zeitgeist while coping with financial instability and a lack of broader community. This esoteric work upholds a specific view of genius that excuses any harm perpetrated in the pursuit of creative achievement.
Takeaway: This moody, polemical excavation of contemporary art’s fixation on modernism will satisfy readers who believe creative genius excuses all flaws.
Great for fans of Bret Easton Ellis’s White, Gen LaGreca.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A