Art Matters: The Art of Knowledge/The Knowledge of Art
I see there are number of reviews of this book already, and most of the points I want to make have been made, so I will just add to them.
This is a fascinating complex work which works on many levels. Harrison Shepherd is a fictional character placed in situations with real figures and give readers new insights into the lives of those people:Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. I have long said that novels are a great way to learn history, and this novel succeeds in giving us a great picture of day to day life at the Rivera-Kahlo home when Trotsky was living there.
The book also gives us a great picture of the fear Americans lived in after the years of WW11. Everyone was suspected of being a communist, even if no one really knew what communism was. As is pointed out in the book, the issue was not communism, but anti-communism. And, to paraphrase an FBI agent interviewing Shepherd, anyone quoting the American Constitution with regards to free speech will definitely be seen as a communist. And to this day, free speech is not always welcomed. The enemy might change, but the attitude that was behind the anti-communism still pervades American society. I think this is a main theme of the book.
Kingsolver has created a fascinating, complex character in Harrison Shepherd. We know a lot about him, and we even know the contents of some of the lacunas in his life.
The structure of the book, being told through correspondence and an editor's comments, gives some hint as to what to expect at the end. But that, in no way, detracts from the power of the book.