Behind the glass windows of a storefront-turned-apartment, an art handler at a contemporary art museum sits among dead birds awaiting the return of her roommate, an emerging artist of growing notoriety. While she waits, she ransacks her past while discoursing on Dutch still life painting, the mating habits of her species and others, and the extreme measures taken by the French psychoanalyst Marie Bonaparte to achieve sexual fulfillment.
This audacious burning match of a novella marks the debut of a writer of uncommon insight, boundless curiosity and mordant wit, whose jaundiced eye takes on the comic excesses of contemporary art and the multifariousness of bad sex in equal measure. Masterful in its breadth—at once funny, shocking and erudite—Still Life with Meredith contemplates the thin line that separates sanity from madness in a world that has a hard time telling the difference.
“Endlessly inquisitive and wider in scope than length, the novella proves a worthy addition to the canon of messy, strange, and keen women. Genre-bending, hard to categorize, and teeming with life.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“Hovering somewhere between Nell Zink and David Markson, Still Life with Meredith is an arrow pulled back in the bow. It’s as funny as it is sinister, filled up with facts that stretch the fiction beyond recognition. Take the afternoon off and marvel at this new shape for narrative.”
– Jac Jemc, author of False Bingo and The Grip of It
“If Tom Robbins and Dostoyevsky had a art feminist historian baby who suckled esoterica from an ancient wet nurse sorceress, she’d probably sound a lot like the narrator of Still Life with Meredith. Part curio cabinet, part macabre romp, this is a story about spectacle, pleasure, friendship, and the body that gets all the way under the skin. Lewinson is an electric new voice whose prose cuts like a scalpel.”
– Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest
“Still Life with Meredith is a guided tour of a museum of perverse fascinations: wandering clitorises, divine foreskins, animal abuse, and the princess/psychoanalyst Marie Bonaparte. It’s funny and fearlessly weird, with moments of jarring profundity and long stretches of delicious brilliance. Lewinson is a more profane and pitiless Renata Adler, and her novella is the most decadently imaginative thing I’ve read in years.”
– Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens and The Country of Ice Cream Star
At The Drum, listen to Ann Lewinson introduce Still Life with Meredith in a Safe & Sound podcast with Carrie Callaghan – The Drum
“Still Life with Meredith is about a museum worker—she’s actually an animal wrangler, like the ones that work on movie sets—who’s waiting for her roommate, a globe-trotting artist, to return home. In the meantime, she’s taken social distancing to a really epic level. She’s hashing over her relationship with Meredith, and with various lovers, while discoursing on art and animals and the French psychoanalyst Marie Bonaparte, who had some peculiar ideas about female sexuality.” – Ann Lewinson in Q&A at Dead Darlings
“Most of the books I read, like Marie Bonaparte’s Female Sexuality, Felix Bryk’s Neger-Eros, Aelian’s deeply wacky On the Nature of Animals and Caryl Chessman’s Cell 2455 Death Row, are mentioned in the book, since the narrator has read them as well. But a lot of the research for this book was visual, done in museums and art galleries. Consider these visual aids….” – Ann Lewinson in Research Notes at Necessary Fiction
“To describe Lewinson’s smart, lean, sharp prose as all over the place is praise indeed in the case of this remarkable novella. The author reveals surprises on every page, and brings to mind the cliché about packing a big punch in a little package, or words to that effect…” – Heidi Mastrogiovanni in New York Journal of Books
“As she waits for her roommate, Meredith, an up-and-coming artist, she does a few things: writes this novel, reads nonfiction, sits in a corner picking at the carpet, and obsesses over many things, including sex, Meredith, genital mutilation, Dutch still life paintings, and Marie Bonaparte’s quest for sexual fulfillment… Endlessly inquisitive and wider in scope than length, the novella proves a worthy addition to the canon of messy, strange, and keen women. Genre-bending, hard to categorize, and teeming with life.” – Kirkus Reviews
The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Talking Heads, MIA and more… listen to Ann Lewinson’s playlist for Still Life with Meredith – at Large-Hearted Boy
For book clubs — and all book lovers — Ann joins a select list of new and recent novelists in Authors in Pajamas at Bookshop.org: “these thoughtful, celebrated and anticipated novels (plus one novella) honor dark beauty, friendships, isolation, strangeness, and wonder found in unexpected places.” – Authors in Pajamas
Ann Lewinson’s fiction has appeared in Agni, Hayden’s Ferry Review, MoMA PS1’s Special Projects Writers’ Series and other places. A 2014 fellow at the Edward F. Albee Foundation, she is also a playwright, journalist and film critic who has reviewed movies for ARTnews, The Boston Phoenix, The Hartford Advocate and The Kansas City Star. She lives in New York.