The stories in History of Art examine the definitive, yet paradoxical, preoccupations of humankind—namely art-making and war—and the emotions that underpin both: passion and sentimentality, obsession and delusion, ambition and insecurity, fear and envy.
Luongo casts the infamous, famous, and unknown in these sublime vignettes, from Marie Antoinette and John Lennon to the designers of fictional typefaces and the painted soldiers in Stanley Spencer's Great War Memorial. Drawing each work together through the dichotomy of art and war, Luongo also presents a mother who leaves her family so that she can illustrate the war for civilians who have no understanding of it; a Canadian artist who sketches the beach at Normandy while a German sniper observes him; and the daughter of a World War II veteran who struggles with his troubling legacy.
In addition to the collection’s subjective focus, the structure of History of Art works to build creative tension. Luongo’s use of nontraditional forms—flash-fiction sequences, a bird-watching guide, a word problem—are expertly deployed to heighten the sense of trauma and inventiveness found in these stories. In both content and construction, Luongo approaches the ageless themes of creation and destruction with striking novelty, humor, and mastery.
The War Artist
The Confused Husband
In This Life
History of Art
The War Artist Makes God Visible
Girls Come Calling
Three Portraits of Elaine Shapiro
A Note on the Type
Margaret Luongo is associate professor of English at Miami University in Ohio, where she teaches creative writing and contemporary fiction. She is the author of If the Heart is Lean, and her work has appeared in Tin House, The Cincinnati Review, Granta, and the Pushcart Prize anthology, among other publications.