Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beauty Possessed by Ben Lokey

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read:  November 1, 2012 

On June 25th, 1906, Stanford White, New York City’s leading architect and man about town was shot to death while attending a musical performance at Madison Square Garden’s rooftop theater, a building of his own design and construction. Harry K. Thaw, eccentric heir to a Pittsburgh railroad fortune, had pulled the trigger, marking the final act in a struggle between the two men over Thaw’s young wife, the model and showgirl Evelyn Nesbit. By her sixteenth birthday, in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known by millions for her underage sexuality, sparking an entirely new industry of news and gossip and signaling the beginning of America’s growing obsession with beauty, glamour, celebrity and sex.

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Evelyn Nesbit
Ben Lokey's Beauty Possessed is one of those pieces I have a really hard time reviewing. I love historic fiction, but I can't go any higher than three stars on this. For the record a three from me is typical and generally means I liked a book, but for whatever reason I can't say it was a great read or a five star, run up to strangers on the street screaming 'you have to read this!' kind of book.

For those who read my reviews on my blog, I apologize as this it gonna sound very similar to what I said about Protecting His Wolfe. For me, content and execution carry equal weight. I loved that Lokey exposed me to material I had never before encountered, but I feel much of the subject's power was lost in the telling. The erratic shifts from first to third person narrative, sometimes in the past tense and others in the present, disrupted the flow of the story and made the text choppy and uneven. 

Speaking of pacing, I do not like the timeline of events as they appear in Lokey's work. It is not uncommon to see a prologue of sorts, a brief introduction, before a narrative backtracks to the beginning of the story, but Lokey extends this intro for such an extended period that the backtracking to Evelyn's early childhood at the beginning of chapter four seems out of place. 

On the same note there are sections like the last two paragraphs of chapter eight. Present tense third person narration of Evelyn's entry into modeling is seamlessly followed by a first person past tense exposition of Stanford's life. Its a bizarre formatting choice that comes off as unpolished.

You might have noticed I've spent a lot of time on the execution, virtually ignoring the content of Lokey's work. I think the author picked a wonderful story. As the blurb states, Stanford White's murder has it all; beauty, glamour, celebrity, sex. Thing is, I can't speak to the accuracy of it. Until reading Lokey's work I'd never heard of these individuals so I am really at a loss beyond exhibiting an appreciation for the basic story line.

Not my favorite piece of the year, but certainly better than the average kindle freebie.

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Living the life of an artist's model? Absolutely not! It's unconventional. Absolutely bohemian. 
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