The pursuit of Eros, the yearning for intimacy, and the struggle to reconcile bisexuality with a longing for children -- these are the desires etched in the hearts of the characters of this brave and probing novel by the award-winning author of Clara's Heart and Nightswimmer.
The moment that Sam Solomon, the protagonist of Vanitas, is transfixed by an erotic drawing that hangs in the apartment of a dying art dealer, Elliot Garland, he finds himself caught in an under-tow of confusion and longing. Garland, stricken with AIDS, has hired Sam to write his memoirs and yet manages to withhold crucial information about his life. Sam suspects, however, that the drawing, called Vanitas, is the relic of a dramatic, and secret, history that could provide answers to the questions his subject has refused to address.
Vanitas explores the intersections between the disparate worlds of art and art restoration, publishing, and urban relationships, all of which are in the grip of an implacable epidemic. As Sam traverses the landscapes of disease, romance, and mystery, he is enveloped by a culture in which individuals make tenuous connections with one another as land mines explode all around them. And as he negotiates the hazards of the volatile allegiances and jealousies attendant to his own romantic entanglements, he finds himself face to face with a familiar existential dilemma -- the desire to raise a child despite society's condemnation of nontraditional families.
A brilliantly written story of the lonely, painful search for happiness in unconventional choices, Vanitas is a rare novel -- a daring orchestration of event and character that is a bold, hopeful, and accomplished piece of literature.