September 12, 2010

Review: This Fantastic Struggle: The Life and Art of Esther Phillips

Rarely if ever does the creative artist receive either the recognition or the recompense he deserves and needs. Lisa A. Miles brings this truism to vibrant life in This Fantastic Struggle, the biography of Esther Phillips. Woven together with letters, interviews, scholarly source material, institution documents and art work, this unique cultural essay presents an absorbing glimpse at what it means to be an artist. 

Raised in Pittsburgh by a family that couldn’t appreciate her artistic identity, Esther left for Greenwich Village in the 1930s and never looked back. And an artist Esther was, though it cost her deeply. Despite early critical success, she was not able to make a living during the Depression and was institutionalized for over six years, likely for the results of starvation and stress.

After her release, she returned to her art and to the Village, where her struggle continued. Eventually she lapsed into obscurity, but not before saying she had lived a wonderful life. This Fantastic Struggle is also the story of friendship–the kind that keeps alive both friends and art work that would otherwise have been lost to the world.

This book will appeal to a long list of individuals–art professionals & creative artists of all disciplines; historians, librarians & archivists; mental health professionals; art therapists; those captivated by Pittsburgh history, Greenwich Village, the Abstract Expressionists, letters, diaries, journals, interviews & all that comprise the literary and oral tradition; those with an interest in FDR’s WPA programs, psychology and life philosophies, sociology, cultural studies & the cause of women artists; and those who simply like the creatively-layered design of a true story, befitting the creative nonfiction genre.

This Fantastic Struggle will certainly prompt a general adult readership to better understand mental illness, to see artists as workers, and perhaps most importantly, to examine their own passions, their own lives.

I have always had an appreciation for the arts, so when I was given the opportunity to read and review this book, I had to do it.  This book is probably the best biography I have ever read.  The writer's ability with words gave this book a certain flow that is missing from many of the other biographies I have read.  I would definitely recommend this book. 

This Fantastic Struggle: The Life and Art of Esther Phillips
457 pages
$18.00 US

Purchase your copy here.

Visit Lisa's website
Read an excerpt

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book for free.  All opinions expressed are 100% mine.  If you purchase a book using my Amazon or Barnes and Noble link, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

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