Torture the Artist
Joey Goebel
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Torture the Artist

Joey Goebel
MacAdam/Cage Publishing
265 pages
October 2004
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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At six years old, Vincent is one of 457 children chosen for the New Renaissance Academy on a full scholarship, including room and board. The Academy is the brainchild of an extremely wealthy media mogul who plans to reinvigorate art for the masses before he dies. He is suffering from a slow-growth form of cancer that allows just enough time to set up the extensive cultural program.

The children are carefully selected for their exceptional talents in writing, music, art, etc. By keeping their happiness just out of reach, the theory is that the children's creative juices will be stimulated, ensuring a high quality of work. To this end, each child is assigned a handler, a reverse "guardian angel"; Vincent's handler is a twenty-eight-year-old cynic, Harlan Eiffler, whose job is to thwart every opportunity for happiness that would adversely affect Vincent's creative flow.

With Harlan manipulating the strings, Vincent dances to the music of his puppeteer, churning out plays, screenplays, musical arrangements and novels, all angst-ridden and well-received by the public. New Renaissance is making a fortune. For that matter, so is Harlan, although Vincent takes only a small percentage for his creative successes. His work is brilliant, even though his personal life is in a shambles, eventually reaching critical mass.

On one fateful night, Vincent and Harlan find themselves staring across an abyss of revelation that changes their relationship forever. But such an event was only to be expected, given the enormity of controlling another person's life so radically. Bitter truths collide after years of subterfuge and dishonesty, as the young man and his father-figure guardian tempt fate in search of safety.

Goebel takes his strange characters on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride through a world filled with a strange brew of cynicism, satire, humor and real affection, a bizarre combination of imagination, artifice and insanity. A cross between Boogie Nights, Taxi Driver and Quentin Tarantino's limbic brain, the storyline mixes the world of celebrity excess with the misinterpretation of true creativity, morphing into a strange amalgam of modern day success in an ever-growing retail market. If this is the future, and it may be, seat belts are required.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Luan Gaines, 2004

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