Bad Art MotherEdwina Preston
Good mothers are expected to be selfless. Artists are seen as selfish. So what does this mean for a mother with artistic ambitions?
Enter: frustrated poet Veda Gray, who is offered a Faustian bargain when a wealthy childless couple, the Parishes, invite her to exchange her young son Owen for time to write.
Veda's story unfolds as an adult Owen reflects on his boyhood in the Melbourne suburbs, and in the vibrant bohemian inner-city art world where his restaurateur father was a king. Meanwhile, the talented women in his orbit - Veda, Mrs Parish, wife of an influential poet, muralist and restaurant worker Rosa - push against gender expectations to be recognised as legitimate artists, by their intimates and the wider world. And almost-aunt Ornella, who declares herself without an artistic bone in her body, is perhaps the closest thing Owen has to a traditional mother. As Owen is encouraged to 'be a man', he loses something of himself, too.
Blending wit and pathos, love and fury, ambition and loss, this is an extraordinary novel of love and art, set in the Melbourne milieu of Georges and Mirka Mora, Joy Hester, and John and Sunday Reed.
Edwina Preston is a Melbourne-based writer and musician. Preston is the author of a biography of Australian artist Howard Arkley, Not Just a Suburban Boy and the novel The Inheritance of Ivorie Hammer. Her writing and reviews have appeared in the Age, the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, Heat, Island and Griffith Review.