Self-Portrait with Boy
A compulsively readable and electrifying debut about an ambitious young female artist who accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death—an image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship.Lu Rile is a relentlessly focused young photographer struggling to make ends meet. Working three jobs, responsible for her aging father, and worrying that the crumbling warehouse she lives in is being sold to developers, she is at a point of desperation. One day, in the background of a self-portrait, Lu accidentally captures on film a boy falling past her window to his death. The photograph turns out to be startlingly gorgeous, the best work of art she’s ever made. It’s an image that could change her life…if she lets it. But the decision to show the photograph is not easy. The boy is her neighbors’ son, and the tragedy brings all the building’s residents together. It especially unites Lu with his beautiful grieving mother, Kate. As the two forge an intense bond based on sympathy, loneliness, and budding attraction, Lu feels increasingly unsettled and guilty, torn between equally fierce desires: to use the photograph to advance her career, and to protect a woman she has come to love. Set in early 90s Brooklyn on the brink of gentrification, Self-Portrait with Boy is a provocative commentary about the emotional dues that must be paid on the road to success, a powerful exploration of the complex terrain of female friendship, and a brilliant debut from novelist Rachel Lyon.

Self-Portrait with Boy Details

TitleSelf-Portrait with Boy
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 6th, 2018
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781501169588
Rating
GenreFiction, Art, Literary Fiction

Self-Portrait with Boy Review

  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    Lu Rile, a dirt poor twenty-six year old photographer, lived in an abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn, New York. The landlord allowed artists to squat in his cheap, ill-repaired lofts. Gentrification would eventually force apartment dwellers to accept buy-outs. Barren streets with crumbling sidewalks and unheated living space would be replaced by exclusive residences. For now though, Lu lived in a fourth floor loft. She worked part-time in Summerland, an upscale health food store in Brooklyn Height Lu Rile, a dirt poor twenty-six year old photographer, lived in an abandoned warehouse in Brooklyn, New York. The landlord allowed artists to squat in his cheap, ill-repaired lofts. Gentrification would eventually force apartment dwellers to accept buy-outs. Barren streets with crumbling sidewalks and unheated living space would be replaced by exclusive residences. For now though, Lu lived in a fourth floor loft. She worked part-time in Summerland, an upscale health food store in Brooklyn Heights. The wealthy clientele treated her like a non-existent entity. Her subsistence diet consisted of food she pocketed from Summerland.Lu, a struggling photographer, needed a platform for change. She embarked upon a photographic exercise in the study of technique; shadows and depth perception. Every day, she staged her self portrait then critiqued the photo. Self-Portrait #400 was unique. Against the backdrop of the loft's large pane window, a nude Lu leaped up in the air from the right while a blur from the left descended, followed by screams and sirens. An accidental masterpiece. A falling boy (Max Schubert-Fine falling to his death) while Lu leaped in the air. A perfect photo of flying and falling. The photo could be transformative. It could be a career starter, a way to reach a wider audience. A moral dilemma ensued, a question of right or wrong.Upon the death of nine year old Max, neighbors from the apartments came together and developed close friendships while insulating and protecting grieving mother Kate Fine. Lu Rile, lonely and friendless, became a close confident, a new experience for Lu. Although haunted by images of Max, Lu was propelled forward but wanted to get Kate's blessing and permission to show the photo. How could she even think of approaching Kate?"Self-Portrait with Boy: A Novel" by Rachel Lyon is a study in morality. The emotional toll, the guilt and stress created by the accidental photo of Max's demise and Lu's potential rise cannot be understated. Ms. Lyon has created a powerful commentary on a photographer's quest for recognition and success.Thank you Scribner and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "Self-Portrait with Boy: A Novel".
    more
  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
    January 1, 1970
    4 original and artsy stars to Self-Portrait with Boy! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ I requested this book thanks to my GR friend, Fran. Thank you, Fran! Rachel Lyon has a unique voice and style, and this book’s premise was completely original. Lu was a photographer working three jobs to make ends meet. She lived in a rat-infested apartment in Brooklyn in the late 1980s. Her project at the time of the book’s opening was taking a self-portrait every day. It turned out that one of her photos had the image of her neighbo 4 original and artsy stars to Self-Portrait with Boy! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I requested this book thanks to my GR friend, Fran. Thank you, Fran! Rachel Lyon has a unique voice and style, and this book’s premise was completely original. Lu was a photographer working three jobs to make ends meet. She lived in a rat-infested apartment in Brooklyn in the late 1980s. Her project at the time of the book’s opening was taking a self-portrait every day. It turned out that one of her photos had the image of her neighbors’ child falling to his death, which was captured in a supposedly beautiful way. What will Lu do? Launch her career with this gorgeously captivating photo? Or risk losing new relationships she’s formed as a result? There were two small flaws for me - one was the dialogue style. Without the use of quotation marks and names to denote who was speaking, it was sometimes hard to follow, and the flow wasn’t always there. Second, there was an incident where animals were harmed...Some view these particular animals as a nuisance (rats), but I don’t know how that added to the story? And I really wish I could unsee the visual I got from that horrific scene. Overall, this book was engaging and well-written. I especially loved the art/photography angle. I will definitely be looking for what Rachel Lyon writes next!Happy Publication Week to Self-Portrait with Boy! Thank you to Rachel Lyon, Scribner, and Netgalley for the complimentary copy.
    more
  • *TUDOR^QUEEN*
    January 1, 1970
    I was immediately drawn to the provocative premise of this book. It's the late 1980s. Young, struggling female NYC photographer Lu Rile lives in a former warehouse; a crumbling, illegal building of lofts. Lu's latest project has been taking a self-portrait each day. So far the results have not been extraordinary...until one fateful day. Lu sets up her camera and strips bare. At the appropriate moment, she leaps forward aside her wall of windows as the shutter releases, capturing her image in fli I was immediately drawn to the provocative premise of this book. It's the late 1980s. Young, struggling female NYC photographer Lu Rile lives in a former warehouse; a crumbling, illegal building of lofts. Lu's latest project has been taking a self-portrait each day. So far the results have not been extraordinary...until one fateful day. Lu sets up her camera and strips bare. At the appropriate moment, she leaps forward aside her wall of windows as the shutter releases, capturing her image in flight. Whilst Lu was airborne, she heard the sound of something tap against her window. Now there were more sounds. Lu would never, ever forget the animalistic howl of agony from Steve Schubert, the artist upstairs. Within seconds, Steve and his wife Kate were pounding down the hallway stairs. An unspeakable tragedy had just taken place. Steve and Kate's only child Max had fallen off the roof, fatally landing into an air vent. Days later when Lu develops the film, she makes a heart-stopping discovery: "Self-Portrait #400" captured beautiful blond-haired Max Schubert-Fine tumbling downward in her left window pane in perfect symmetry with Lu leaping across the right pane. As startling and horrific this is to discover, Lu can't deny the reality that this is her long-awaited masterpiece. Lu works three jobs simultaneously while pursuing the dream to have her photographs shown in a prestigious art gallery. She even steals food from the health food store she works at to survive financially. So, "Self-Portrait #400" is like a ticking time bomb as Lu deals with its implications. Although she never interacted with the Schubert-Fines prior to the tragedy occurring, Lu has now become quite close with Kate. How can Lu bring herself to tell Kate about the picture and ask for permission to have it shown as an art piece? This is the major conflict in the book.The author chose an unorthodox method of conveying the conversations between people. She used absolutely no quotations around the dialogue, nor identified by name the person who spoke each line (example: said Kate). You are just supposed to discern the narrators once the stage is set with the characters. At first it looked clean, simple and straightforward, but sometimes I had difficulty assigning the dialogue. I love reading about the art scene in New York City decades past, so this was right up my alley. It was a slow burn resolving that pivotal issue of publicizing the photo, but the author managed to keep the story interesting while it bore itself out. This was definitely a well-executed out-of-the-box (my favorite kind) story.Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this advance reader copy in return for my fair and honest review.
    more
  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Art is rooted in experience, and artists plumb their lives for their art. I think of F. Scott Fitzgerald and how he appropriated Zelda's letters and diaries and story for his work, or Thomas Wolfe whose first novel Look Homeward, Angel caused a ruckus in his hometown that was so thinly veiled in the book. And I think of Elizabeth Strout's recent novel My Name is Lucy Barton whose character is told she must be ruthless in her art. Artists are faced with telling the truth or protecting others.On t Art is rooted in experience, and artists plumb their lives for their art. I think of F. Scott Fitzgerald and how he appropriated Zelda's letters and diaries and story for his work, or Thomas Wolfe whose first novel Look Homeward, Angel caused a ruckus in his hometown that was so thinly veiled in the book. And I think of Elizabeth Strout's recent novel My Name is Lucy Barton whose character is told she must be ruthless in her art. Artists are faced with telling the truth or protecting others.On the first page of Self Portrait With Boy, we are told the main character, Lu Rile, was described as "ruthless," single minded. Lu, looking back on what happened twenty years previous, talks about the trauma behind the work that catapulted her into the limelight and tells us her story.The novel begins with Lu admitting that at age twenty-six "there were so many people I had not yet become." I loved that line because it reflects how I have seen my life since I was a teenager: life is a continual process of growth and change, so that we become different people as we age.Lu is a squatter in an old factory inhabited by artists. She works several low paying jobs and barely scraps by. Lu feels like an outsider, a girl who grew up poor and does not understand the world of the well-off and well-known artists around her.Because she can not afford anything else, Lu becomes her own model and every day takes a self portrait. One day, she sets the timer on her camera and jumps, naked, in front of the large windows in her unheated apartment. When she develops the film she discovers that in the background she has captured the fatal fall of a child.The child's parents become alienated in their grief, the successful artist father moving out while the mother, Kate, leans on Lu for support. It has been years since Lu had been close to anyone. She is unable to tell Kate about the photograph.There are weird occurrences that make Lu believe the boy is haunting her and she becomes desperate to get rid of the photograph. Lu's father is in need of money for surgery, and she is pressured to join the others in the building in hiring a lawyer. Lu knows her photo is an amazing work and she struggles between success and the love she feels for Kate and the admiration for Steve.Rachel Lyon's writing is amazing. I loved how she used sights, sounds, and aromas to make Lu's world real. This is her debut novel.
    more
  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    I was blown away by this book.Self-Portrait with Boy is a ruthless examination of the cost of success for a young hopeful photographer. Lu Rile is in her late 20s, squatting in an Artists in Residence abandoned-warehouse-turned-apartment in Brooklyn which is so run down it should be condemned, working three jobs and trying to break into the competitive arts scene. When she accidentally captures in a self-portrait the image of a young boy falling to his death, the photograph turns out to be stunn I was blown away by this book.Self-Portrait with Boy is a ruthless examination of the cost of success for a young hopeful photographer. Lu Rile is in her late 20s, squatting in an Artists in Residence abandoned-warehouse-turned-apartment in Brooklyn which is so run down it should be condemned, working three jobs and trying to break into the competitive arts scene. When she accidentally captures in a self-portrait the image of a young boy falling to his death, the photograph turns out to be stunning, and Lu is forced to decide if she should destroy the print out of respect for the grieving family who she ends up befriending, or if she should use it to launch her career. (There's also a supernatural element to the story, as Lu believes she is being haunted by the ghost of the boy who died - though whether this element is literal or a manifestation of Lu's internal turmoil, I think Rachel Lyon leaves that for us to decide.)Lu is one of the best anti-heroines I think I've ever read. She's fueled by an almost ruthless ambition, but so vulnerable that I found myself sympathizing with and rooting for her, even though she never asks you to. She's not a warm narrator and she doesn't ask for pity, but she's all the more honest and compelling for that fact. When she looks at her photograph she's forced to confront the very nature of art itself and the role of the artist - is it her responsibility to spare the feelings of this boy's family, or does she have a stronger duty to her career and the truth behind her art?I'm actually very familiar with the Brooklyn neighborhoods - Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights - that provided this story with its setting, so that was definitely part of the appeal for me. It was fascinating to step back in time and look at Dumbo not as I know it now, but on the brink of gentrification in the early 90s. But even if you've never been to Dumbo, I think it's still possible to be impressed by just how immersive this novel is. It's such a brilliant and insular look at the New York art scene in the 90s; fans of twentieth century American art in particular I think will be entranced by this story.There's really only one element of this novel that didn't work for me - the omission of quotation marks in dialogue. I can only assume that since Lu is recounting this story 20 years later, the desired effect is to imply that it's Lu's remembrance of characters' dialogue, rather than verbatim quotes? But I'm still not sure that it was necessary - it seems like a rather arbitrary stylistic choice. It didn't bother me enough to detract from my 5 star rating, but I think it's going to be a big deterrent for some people.But like I said, all things considered, I was blown away. I don't think I appreciated just how hard-hitting this book was until I read the final sentence and nearly burst into tears. This whole novel was beautiful and unsettling and unique, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I'll look forward to anything Rachel Lyon writes in the future - she's a huge talent to look out for.Thank you to Scribner and Rachel Lyon for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Marjorie
    January 1, 1970
    Oh how Lu Rile longs to make her mark in the photography world. She has struggled so hard and her art means everything to her. During a series of self-portraits, she inadvertently captures the fatal fall of a young boy past her window. The resulting photograph is her masterpiece, the work that her artistic life has centered on achieving. But there’s a problem. She’s become friends with, possibly even has fallen a bit in love with, the young boy’s mother, Kate, and she can’t bring herself to tell Oh how Lu Rile longs to make her mark in the photography world. She has struggled so hard and her art means everything to her. During a series of self-portraits, she inadvertently captures the fatal fall of a young boy past her window. The resulting photograph is her masterpiece, the work that her artistic life has centered on achieving. But there’s a problem. She’s become friends with, possibly even has fallen a bit in love with, the young boy’s mother, Kate, and she can’t bring herself to tell Kate about this photo. And another problem has arisen – the young boy, Max, is haunting Lu, appearing outside of the window that he fell past on his way to his death.I’m finding it difficult to believe that this is a debut novel by this author. I think she may have been a student of Joyce Carol Oates, one of my favorite authors, since she went to Princeton where Ms. Oates teaches and Ms. Oates wrote a glowing blurb for the book. That blurb is what drew me to this book. This novel had everything I could ask for. I didn’t just read this book – I lived this book. I lived in the dilapidated warehouse along with Lu and the other illegal tenants. I walked the Brooklyn streets with Lu as she took her photos and went to her three jobs. I stayed with her and her father when he underwent eye surgery. And I sweated over her dilemma of what to do with her controversial photo right along with her. I could hardly bear to read the last pages of this book. I was so invested in the story that it felt personal.I won’t tell any more about the plot of this book than the publisher has chosen to. I leave it to the author to tell her story, which she does to perfection.Most, most highly recommended.This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
    more
  • Lolly K Dandeneau
    January 1, 1970
    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'Tragedy is insignifigant, banal.'Is it? Lu Rile is hungry, to be something in the art world, to make her mark no matter what. Art is to be seen, be it disturbing or not. Is it her fault if the photo that could make her career happens to be another woman’s all consumning tragedy? When she accidentally captures a young boy falling to his death in a photograph of herself, she has to decide whether betrayal is a worthy price to pay in the name of a via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/'Tragedy is insignifigant, banal.'Is it? Lu Rile is hungry, to be something in the art world, to make her mark no matter what. Art is to be seen, be it disturbing or not. Is it her fault if the photo that could make her career happens to be another woman’s all consumning tragedy? When she accidentally captures a young boy falling to his death in a photograph of herself, she has to decide whether betrayal is a worthy price to pay in the name of art. By chance, the boy lives in the same riverside warehouse she does, a place that smells of rat poisoning and turpentine, the only place she can afford in New York. Working in a health food store where she is treated poorly is the only way she can work on her picture a day plan, but time is of the essence, she has to be taken seriously if she will ever make a name for herself. When she forms an intensely close bond with Kate, Max’s greiving mother, the photo and the boy begin to haunt her, wreaking havoc on her sanity. This is her future, the gold, the meat and yet her love for Kate causes pause. She knows if she moves forward to show the photograph, it will be the ruin of everything she has built. There is a choice, or is there? Kate’s husband Steve is an artist, surely they understand art above all else belongs to the world? It cannot be denied that the photo is beautiful in it’s horror. It’s amazing what we convince ourselves of when it comes to our own wants.Kate has taken Lu Rile into her home and heart, confiding the intimate struggles of her marriage, sharing the abyss of grief for her beloved,late gifted son Max, not once imagining Lu Rile is keeping the secret of her son’s final moments from her. That back in her own crummy apartment is a devastating photograph of his fall. Lu struggles just to survive, working in a health food store, her father depends on her and needs an expensive surgery, she simply is not making enough to maintain their lives. Kate knows the right people, everything is falling into place, this is the chance Lu must take, finally an oppurtunity to push her art out there. Can’t this be a blessing that blossoms out of grief and tragedy? Lu would be insane not to take advantage of the chances her friendship with Kate affords her. How much of her love and compassion, her tenderness for the deeply wounded, broken Kate is selfless? Can’t she take care of Kate but also look out for her own needs too? Why is it so wrong?Who is this Lu? “There are so many people I had not yet become.” It seems there are so many versions of ourselves that haunt us, so many different people within us begging to be born. Is hunger and a drive to be someone reason enough to betray? Are there moral grounds that should never be tramped upon, even for the sake of art? It’s stunning the lengths people go to to make something of themselves, and what works wonderfully in this novel is the internal tug of war Lu is having within herself to do what is right, for her or for Kate, whom she’s come to love. How a novel can break your heart one moment and make you furious the next is a wonder.I devoured this novel, it was ugly and beautiful, much like everything going on inside of Lu. It made me spitting mad at times too.Publication Date: February 6, 2018Scribner
    more
  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    Unexpected, in so many ways. A terrific entry into the "artists-in-pre-21st-Century-NYC" canon, one of the best novels about a photographer I think I've ever read, and a story about being haunted by all kinds of things. It's a bit of a slow start but the book works on you and then you consume the last 175 pages in a single sitting. Or at least, I did.
    more
  • Christopher
    January 1, 1970
    i’d give it 500 stars if i could
  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    Self-Portrait With Boy is structured around a photograph taken by the main character, Lu Rile, in which she accidentally captures something tragic (this is described on the book's cover, but I won't spoil it here) and has to decide whether or not to keep the image and use it to further her struggling art career. The decision is complicated several things: the controversial content of the photo; her developing friendship with her upstairs neighbor, Kate; the artistic quality of the image (it's by Self-Portrait With Boy is structured around a photograph taken by the main character, Lu Rile, in which she accidentally captures something tragic (this is described on the book's cover, but I won't spoil it here) and has to decide whether or not to keep the image and use it to further her struggling art career. The decision is complicated several things: the controversial content of the photo; her developing friendship with her upstairs neighbor, Kate; the artistic quality of the image (it's by far the best Lu has ever made); and Lu's dire financial situation. Within the plot framework of this prolonged decision are descriptions of the 1990's Brooklyn art world, explorations of development and gentrification during that time period, a beautiful character study of Lu as she "begins to become herself" and awakens romantically, and peeks into several fraught family relationships. Although it isn't hard to guess what will happen with the photograph, there was enough sense of foreboding around that, and enough side plot to keep me interested. And the writing! The writing was the cherry on top. Spare at times, beautifully descriptive at others, but never pretentious or unnecessary. I loved this book.
    more
  • Kathleen Gray
    January 1, 1970
    An impressive debut which richly deserves the kudos it has received. Lu Rile is an artist living in a warehouse in Dumbo in 1991. Lyon has captured the time and the location wonderfully. I can visualize not only the loft but also the supermarket where she works (and her boss!). She's committed to one photographic self portrait a day. On day 400, a freak accident where a neighbor child falls from the roof leads to a photo that is her masterpiece- except there's a problem. This novel is not only a An impressive debut which richly deserves the kudos it has received. Lu Rile is an artist living in a warehouse in Dumbo in 1991. Lyon has captured the time and the location wonderfully. I can visualize not only the loft but also the supermarket where she works (and her boss!). She's committed to one photographic self portrait a day. On day 400, a freak accident where a neighbor child falls from the roof leads to a photo that is her masterpiece- except there's a problem. This novel is not only about the art scene and a struggling artist but also about the grief and guilt in the aftermath of the fall. Each character is so beautifully drawn and realistic. You'll feel their pain and equally Lu's ambition. How can she profit from a photo that will just destroy her friend Kate? How can she tell Kate that her masterpiece includes Kate's son falling to his death? Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. This is literary page turner with a protagonist who has a distinct voice. Two thumbs up!
    more
  • Katie Brennan
    January 1, 1970
    Read this book! I haven't fallen so deep into a novel in a long while. Gorgeously written, and one of the rare novels situated in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood that doesn't feel at all cloying.
  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book in two breathless reading sessions. Like any real tragedy, the suspense comes not from the events themselves, but the momentum that builds watching them unfold. Lyon has an insider's touch with art world details, and effortlessly captures the particular desperation born of the collision between grinding poverty and oblivious wealth. But what felt especially familiar and real to me was the relationship between Lu and Kate, that confused and doomed mixture of friendship, envy and I read this book in two breathless reading sessions. Like any real tragedy, the suspense comes not from the events themselves, but the momentum that builds watching them unfold. Lyon has an insider's touch with art world details, and effortlessly captures the particular desperation born of the collision between grinding poverty and oblivious wealth. But what felt especially familiar and real to me was the relationship between Lu and Kate, that confused and doomed mixture of friendship, envy and attraction where you're not sure if you want to consume the person or be them. Lyon also powerfully conjures a vanished New York, tying the ruthless inevitability of Lu's actions to the relentless "progress" of development. Must read for fans of New York stories, art world intrigue (the dialogue in the gallery opening scene in the middle of the book is delicious), or anyone who remembers being young and hungry.
    more
  • Ryan
    January 1, 1970
    The coming of age, 1990's NYC art-world drama and supernatural thriller we've all been waiting for. I firmly believe only smart people can write smart characters, and in that regard Lyon is a genius; a page turner that propels you not because of gimmicks or cliff-hangers, but because you are invested in the characters.
    more
  • Anna Luce Smyth
    January 1, 1970
    ★★★★★ (4.8 stars)Self-Portrait with Boy is an intensely powerful debut novel, one that tells an all-encompassing and all-consuming story. A small digression: lured by the summary, I was keen to get my hands on Self-Portrait with Boy, however, once I found out that Lyon avoids using quotation marks...I became hesitant. For some silly reason, I just cannot stand reading books that do not follow traditional formatting. Still, I wanted to read this...and then I had an 'idea'...what if I were to list ★★★★★ (4.8 stars)Self-Portrait with Boy is an intensely powerful debut novel, one that tells an all-encompassing and all-consuming story. A small digression: lured by the summary, I was keen to get my hands on Self-Portrait with Boy, however, once I found out that Lyon avoids using quotation marks...I became hesitant. For some silly reason, I just cannot stand reading books that do not follow traditional formatting. Still, I wanted to read this...and then I had an 'idea'...what if I were to listen to the Audiobook instead? Turns out that was one of the best choices I've ever made. Narrated by Julia Whelan it took me just a day and a half to finish listening to it. I'm now actually tempted to buy a physical copy...Lu is a young photographer stuck working in an organic grocery store and perennially short on money. When a photograph she has taken reveals to have captured a boy falling to his own death she is torn between what could finally start her career and the consequences of showcasing such a tragically private photo. Lu views this photo as her masterpiece and is determined to show it to the world. Things are even more complicated since she befriends the boy’s mother Kate. Lu's ambitions collide with her desires: she strives for her 'shocking' photo to be recognised but she also wishes for a relation of sorts with Kate.Lu's story contains plenty of conflict: art, morality, love, ambition, selfishness. Lu scrutinises her own actions, the choice in regards of the photo as well as the everyday choices she makes everyday: there is her father's failing sight, the quick deterioration of the building in which she lives, her various jobs and her different relationships. All of this is set against a vividly rendered backdrop, one that buzzes with vitality: there are many scenes that swiftly incorporate many things at once, Lyon makes everything her focus, bringing to life Lu's bustling city. Lyon didn't shy away from including the more disturbing aspect of Lu's life. There is a particularly graphic scene including a rat nest...which was pretty intense (and possibly traumatising).Nevertheless I was unable to skip a single moment. I found each page to deliver a both freighting and amusing realism: the characters' conversations, Lu's own thoughts, they are all strikingly real. Lyon perfectly captures the life of a group of diverse artists. Lyon's narrator is a real tour de force: she is horrible and selfish but she also possesses a beautiful mind. Lu's observations truly transpire her artistic inclinations: she talks of the light, always looks at her surroundings, relishes the small details of certain encounters. There is also a surprising almost supernatural element woven into Lu's otherwise realistic story. It worked well since Lyon includes it without overemphasising it. Self-Portrait with Boy is a gut-wrenching portrait of a young artist's struggle for recognition. It is also a story of a young woman's day to day life: odd encounters, funny moments, tedious jobs. It is a troubling read, one that tests and pushes our own limits and understandings of ethics and morals. Lyon's prose is effortlessly expressive and her swift style brims with creativity. ps: be warned, this is a novel that will leave you feeling raw.
    more
  • Bonnye Reed
    January 1, 1970
    GNAB Rachel Lyon brings us an excellent novel set in NYC - actually in DUMBO, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, from 1991 (pre-gentrification) into more modern times. Lu Rile has graduated art school and done some graduate work, but spends most of her time taking and developing arty photos, and working at a small health food store in nearby Brooklyn Heights for minimum wage. In 1991 NYC, that was $3.80 an hour. She would not be able to stay in NYC if she didn't live in the abandoned neig GNAB Rachel Lyon brings us an excellent novel set in NYC - actually in DUMBO, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, from 1991 (pre-gentrification) into more modern times. Lu Rile has graduated art school and done some graduate work, but spends most of her time taking and developing arty photos, and working at a small health food store in nearby Brooklyn Heights for minimum wage. In 1991 NYC, that was $3.80 an hour. She would not be able to stay in NYC if she didn't live in the abandoned neighborhood at 222 River Street under the bridge overpass. If she returned home to live with her Dad on the Massachusetts coast, she would never be recognized or respected as a serious artist.Part of her daily routine included taking a self-portrait, usually an action shot or one defining herself or her community. On the 400th day's self-portrait fate or kismet interferes, resulting in a perfectly balanced, absolutely compelling photo. It is the best photo she has ever taken. It may be the best photo she will ever take. Unfortunately what makes the photo balanced and perfect is the upstairs neighbor's nine year old child free-falling to his death outside Lu's window. Of course she doesn't see the photo until several days after the accident, days spent consoling Kate, getting to know her better, becoming friends. And once Lu sees the developed proof, she realizes she must make a choice between being true to her friendship with Kate and destroying the negative, or beginning her career as a professional photographer by showing the print in a serious gallery. Or maybe there are other choices? I received a free electronic copy of this novel from Netgalley, Rachel Lyon, and Scribner in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. Pub date Feb 6, 2018
    more
  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/Recently, I watched Griffin Dunne's documentary, The Center Will Not Hold, about his aunt, Joan Didion. At one point in the film, Dunne was questioning Didion about her writing in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I was taken back when Didion recalled a moment in Haight-Ashbury in 1967 when she came across a child whose mother had given her LSD. Didion explained that she wanted to run and call the police, go home to her child and protect her. Instead, she smiled a https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/Recently, I watched Griffin Dunne's documentary, The Center Will Not Hold, about his aunt, Joan Didion. At one point in the film, Dunne was questioning Didion about her writing in Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I was taken back when Didion recalled a moment in Haight-Ashbury in 1967 when she came across a child whose mother had given her LSD. Didion explained that she wanted to run and call the police, go home to her child and protect her. Instead, she smiled and said, “Let me tell you, it was gold,” she says. “You live for moments like that if you’re doing a piece. Good or bad.” I have thought about that revealing statement quite a few times, and then I discovered Self-Portrait With Boy. The situation is similar. The story is fiction. It has the same impact. Is there a moral dilemma in both stories?Lu Rile was a young photographer living in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) in the early nineties. It was still pioneering days for the Brooklyn gentrification movement. Artists lived in old warehouses or factories in large spaces for small amounts of rent. Lu was focused solely on her work, paying the rent at first with a job at a health food store. A solitary person, Lu didn't become part of the community of artists who lived at 222 River Street. Lu hadn't yet found her niche in the work she wanted to pursue. She began a series of self-portraits, one each day, nudes in motion in front of her large window. During a party, the son of the upstairs neighbor falls, and Lu's camera catches the boy's descending image in her shot. She doesn't realize it until later when she finally develops the film. The photo became "Self Portrait #400." Lu knows it is her best work. Lu also knows it will hurt the grieving parents, Kate and Steve, so she doesn't show it to them.Life's realities get in the way of Lu's intense focus on her work. Her father needs cataract surgery, and she takes on two more jobs to help pay for the procedure. If she could make one big splash into the center of the art world, into a gallery exhibit, her life would be better. To do that, she must deal with the question of how far is she willing to go to achieve her goal. Lu knows her "Self Portrait #400" is her golden ticket. The book is riveting with descriptions of Lu's growing friendship with Kate, the grieving mother. Lu feels responsible for her father but shows a certain level of resentment for being left with him when her mother took off when she was a young child. The struggle is the operative motion in this provocative book. What does it take to be a successful artist, one who is recognized, who is asked to talk about her work? Lu must come to terms with what she wants to do. As a reader, I was challenged by this brilliantly told story. It is haunting me still.Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for the e-ARC of this novel to be published on February 6, 2018.
    more
  • Kira FlowerChild
    January 1, 1970
    Not quite sure how to review this book. There are really only two major moments in the story: The moment when Lu Rile discovers she has accidentally caught a nine-year-old boy's fall from the roof of her building on film, and the moment when the boy's parents, Sara and Steve, discover that Lu has chosen to exhibit this photograph to further her career.It took a while for the author to get around to the first moment. I actually put down the book and read seven other books while pondering whether Not quite sure how to review this book. There are really only two major moments in the story: The moment when Lu Rile discovers she has accidentally caught a nine-year-old boy's fall from the roof of her building on film, and the moment when the boy's parents, Sara and Steve, discover that Lu has chosen to exhibit this photograph to further her career.It took a while for the author to get around to the first moment. I actually put down the book and read seven other books while pondering whether I should continue. The author's prose is dense and muddy, and she does not use quotes to indicate dialogue, an affectation which irritates me no end. What is the purpose of that? Is she trying to show us she is writing a "literary" novel? If you have to try that hard, lady, it ain't working.To her credit, though, I seldom had any trouble distinguishing dialogue from exposition. But if it took her a long time to get to the first moment of interest - oh. my. god. it took her until a few pages from the end to get to the second point of interest. In the meantime, the character of Lu Rile just gets nastier and meaner and more alienated from both friends and family. When Lu went home at Christmas, I absolutely wanted to throw the book across the room when I read how she treated her father. When Lu kept cozying up to Sara, listening to Sara talk about the child she lost, all the while behind Sara's back begging and pleading with a gallery owner to exhibit the photo showing the child falling, well, if it hadn't been a library book, I would have been tempted to burn it.The only reason I kept reading this novel is to see how the boy's parents, Sara and Steve, would react when they saw the photograph, enlarged to fifty inches square, displayed on a public gallery wall. I read until three o'clock in the morning to finish the book so I wouldn't have to have anything more to do with this piece of (fill in the blank with your favorite expletive).As to the central question of the novel - which comes first, career or the feelings of your friends, in less traumatic circumstances, that might actually be a question. In these circumstances, there is only an answer: No, you do not betray your friends in this utterly unfeeling and heinous way.
    more
  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    I received Self-Portrait with Boy: A Novel as part of a Goodreads giveaway.Lu Rile, an aspiring but struggling photographer, lives a spartan existence in a decrepit old warehouse turned loft building in Brooklyn, working several minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. As part of a series of self-portraits, she one day accidentally captures an image of her neighbors' young son falling to his death. It's horrifying, chilling...and the image that results is stunning, with the potential to make Lu's ca I received Self-Portrait with Boy: A Novel as part of a Goodreads giveaway.Lu Rile, an aspiring but struggling photographer, lives a spartan existence in a decrepit old warehouse turned loft building in Brooklyn, working several minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. As part of a series of self-portraits, she one day accidentally captures an image of her neighbors' young son falling to his death. It's horrifying, chilling...and the image that results is stunning, with the potential to make Lu's career. However, in the aftermath of the tragedy, Lu becomes close to the boy's mother and helps her in her grief and must reconcile her own ambitions with the feelings of a woman for whom she has come to care deeply.I found the storyline interesting and timely, given the Logan Paul controversy currently sweeping the media. I also work in the art world, so I also appreciated it from an "insider's" perspective. As much as I was engaged by the narrative, though, my dislike for Lu kept me from really enjoying it. I understand that I don't have to (and am not supposed to) like every character in every novel, and that some characters are written to be unpleasant. But I feel like Lyon depicted Lu as a fundamentally good person, and I just couldn't get on board. Frankly, she reminds me of the worst artists with whom I've worked, who think that their craft and "genius" goes before everything else, including other people's feelings. She never truly has qualms about showing and profiting from the photograph--she feels bad about it, sure, but stops at nothing to get the piece shown in a gallery, all the while keeping it from Kate. Smaller things, like her being affronted that her boss dare be upset when she left town and skipped five shifts for without notifying him, also annoyed me and cemented my belief in Lu's essential self-centeredness. I give Lyon props for writing a character who annoyed me this much, though I'm not sure that was her intent.
    more
  • Kidlitter
    January 1, 1970
    Such a rich, disturbing read, about the demands on the artist to make memorable art, establish and maintain commercial appeal, sustain vision and originality, and somehow manage to build healthy relationships and a decent life. This would be a challenge for any young person, especially one living in 90s New York. Lu Rile - poor, friendless, almost homeless as she squats in a rotting warehouse - struggles for every photograph she makes. Unlike the protagonist of another recent young-woman-finds-h Such a rich, disturbing read, about the demands on the artist to make memorable art, establish and maintain commercial appeal, sustain vision and originality, and somehow manage to build healthy relationships and a decent life. This would be a challenge for any young person, especially one living in 90s New York. Lu Rile - poor, friendless, almost homeless as she squats in a rotting warehouse - struggles for every photograph she makes. Unlike the protagonist of another recent young-woman-finds-herself-in-NYC, Neon In Daylight, who is irritating beyond belief as she squanders her opportunities, education, and privilege, Lu is keenly aware of all she lacks and all she wants, to an unbearable degree. When she accidently makes the image of herself jumping while through her window a young boy falls to his death, she sets off on a path towards success and destruction. Lu befriends the boy's grieving, charasmatic mother and simultaneously realizes she has made an image which can start her career into the stratosphere. What does the artist owe her art, herself, her family and friends? Lyon creates a Greek tragedy in the inevitability of the clash between affection and ambition, human interaction and worldly sucess, which leaves the reader feeling every moment of Lu's life has been leading to her decision.
    more
  • Sally Bozzuto
    January 1, 1970
    STUNNING! A total page-turner and riveting read with lush and vivid descriptions. I was so engrossed by each of the characters and especially saw many aspects of myself in protagonist, Lu Rile. As a photographer myself I was also very impressed with the author's attention to detail of not just the photographic medium but the way artists think and live. As an artist currently living in New York (and woking in DUMBO) I was gripped by the sharp, striking descriptions of the city as it was, of the l STUNNING! A total page-turner and riveting read with lush and vivid descriptions. I was so engrossed by each of the characters and especially saw many aspects of myself in protagonist, Lu Rile. As a photographer myself I was also very impressed with the author's attention to detail of not just the photographic medium but the way artists think and live. As an artist currently living in New York (and woking in DUMBO) I was gripped by the sharp, striking descriptions of the city as it was, of the lives of the artists that were there at that time. Dazzling and heartbreaking, this was a captivating read all the way through that left me hungry for more!
    more
  • Elizabeth Hipwell
    January 1, 1970
    I was drawn to the subject matter and the time and environment in which this book takes place. A struggling & ambitious artist living in DUMBO Brooklyn in the early 90’s who makes some questionable choices in the name of art to further her career. It was a flawed main character, but that made her all the more human & oddly empathetic. I admit, though, I did get nervous as the betrayal became unveiled. I really saw the points of view of her as well as those she hurt and agreed with their I was drawn to the subject matter and the time and environment in which this book takes place. A struggling & ambitious artist living in DUMBO Brooklyn in the early 90’s who makes some questionable choices in the name of art to further her career. It was a flawed main character, but that made her all the more human & oddly empathetic. I admit, though, I did get nervous as the betrayal became unveiled. I really saw the points of view of her as well as those she hurt and agreed with their assessment in the aftermath. I guess what I am trying to say is that this was a very provocative read. Highly recommend!
    more
  • Narci Drossos
    January 1, 1970
    This novel started slowly for me, as the narrator isn't warm or evocative. But the second time I picked it up, I became entranced with the beauty and truth in the prose. SPWB epitomizes the hidden reality to "the struggle is real" - a phrase which has become trite with overuse and lost its meaning. To be poor in NYC - to believe in one's art and in one's self - it's an experience made painfully real here. So well done. I kept thinking about this novel all during my reading when I put it down and This novel started slowly for me, as the narrator isn't warm or evocative. But the second time I picked it up, I became entranced with the beauty and truth in the prose. SPWB epitomizes the hidden reality to "the struggle is real" - a phrase which has become trite with overuse and lost its meaning. To be poor in NYC - to believe in one's art and in one's self - it's an experience made painfully real here. So well done. I kept thinking about this novel all during my reading when I put it down and even after I finished. Unforgettable.
    more
  • BrandyLee
    January 1, 1970
    A vivid account of 1990's NYC from an artist's perspective. The novel centers around the struggle between success and art versus morality and loyalty. An ethical dilemma you must navigate with Lu, the novels anti-hero. Torn between no good options, the story leaves you to question what would you do in her shoes. You, like the characters, will judge, yet also feel judged. Anyone who lives with hidden insecurities (and who of us doesn't) will feel that anxiety in full color on these pages. An exce A vivid account of 1990's NYC from an artist's perspective. The novel centers around the struggle between success and art versus morality and loyalty. An ethical dilemma you must navigate with Lu, the novels anti-hero. Torn between no good options, the story leaves you to question what would you do in her shoes. You, like the characters, will judge, yet also feel judged. Anyone who lives with hidden insecurities (and who of us doesn't) will feel that anxiety in full color on these pages. An excellent read worth your attention.
    more
  • Allison
    January 1, 1970
    The very act of recall is like trying to photograph the sky. The infinite and ever-shifting colors of memory, its rippling light, cannot really be captured. Show someone who has never seen the sky a picture of the sky and you show them a picture of nothing.Rachel Lyon’s Self-Portrait with Boy was an unexpected read. It’s not a book that I would normally pick up, but after reading several praising reviews, I decided to give it a try.I’m so glad I did because this is the kind of book that sticks The very act of recall is like trying to photograph the sky. The infinite and ever-shifting colors of memory, its rippling light, cannot really be captured. Show someone who has never seen the sky a picture of the sky and you show them a picture of nothing.Rachel Lyon’s Self-Portrait with Boy was an unexpected read. It’s not a book that I would normally pick up, but after reading several praising reviews, I decided to give it a try.I’m so glad I did because this is the kind of book that sticks with you.It tells the story of Lu Rile, a young photographer in 1990s New York, who is both highly ambitious yet still an unknown. When she accidentally captures a young boy falling to his death in the background of her latest self-portrait - Self-Portrait #400 - she is startled to discover that it is her best work to date, a self-proclaimed “masterpiece.” This is the portrait that will put her on the map in the art world, but doing so could be detrimental to her growing friendship with the boy’s mother, Kate, who lives upstairs. Lu questions what she is willing to do for success as she struggles with whether or not to show Kate the photo.Lu Rile is such a complex and, at times, unlikeable character. At one point, her father bought her a coffee-table art book for Christmas because it made him think of her. Lu, instead of being grateful for the gesture, essentially criticized her father for the book because it wasn’t “real” art; instead, it was the art that made you feel “numb” versus her art, which made you feel “unsettled.”You want to feel sympathy for Lu – after all, she was working hard but reaping no rewards, she was young and naïve and didn’t really have a lot of experience – but at the same time realize how ruthless she really was. She knew the potential her actions had of causing pain, yet she did them anyway. She put the value of success over that of friendship. And yet, the story has this way of sucking me in. I wanted to cringe when reading about Lu, and even though the first chapter made it clear about the progression of events, it was like a bad train wreck that I couldn’t look away from.Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for an advanced copy of this eBook in exchange for an honest review.
    more
  • Onceinabluemoon
    January 1, 1970
    This book was haunting, as in the story, I accidentally captured a photo in the same vein. Without spoiling the book I loved it, very relatable, I was tense the whole time, could have skipped one or two sidelines, but I felt the tension and was hooked! Phew now i can shower, I was so close to finishing I didn't want to get clean and relax until the last word!
    more
  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. Ended up enjoying this story much more than I anticipated. I don't really know what to write in a review without ruining the plot or making it sound depressing (it's not), so I'll just say: if you enjoy art and pre-gentrification NYC, read this book.
    more
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this. The author pulls off the near-impossible hat trick of writing a novel that raises complicated questions about the relationship between ethics and art while also being emotionally stirring AND a page turner. I finished it in two days and haven't been able to stop thinking about it. Really extraordinary.
    more
  • Ilyssa Wesche
    January 1, 1970
    This was a compelling story - the main character was driven and not always nice/thoughtful. She justified everything to herself for the sake of her art, good and bad. Not being an artist it was hard to sympathize with this. I don't want to spoil anything.I wasn't down with the ghost stuff. But overall, I recommend this.
    more
  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    A satisfying story that’s compelling, tense, and heartbreaking. A love letter to art, scrappy (and painful) youth and old(ish) New York. There were some moments where i had to suspend my disbelief re: the main character’s employment but overall really nice to read.
    more
Write a review