Critical Evaluation

“Self-Portrait with Boy, Rachel Lyon’s fascinating first novel, is about a photograph, the artist’s intent, and her choice, but in an unexpected and compelling way. A photographer just out of art school sets up an automatic shutter to take a self-portrait and accidentally captures the image of a young boy falling to his death out the window behind her. She has unintentionally created a terrifying and arresting work of art. Her self-portrait on its own would not be as interesting, but with the addition of the falling body it becomes something great. Is it art? She wants it to be. The question is: What will she choose to do with the devastating image?

“Self-Portrait with Boy is Rachel Lyon’s first book, and it is definitely far from being a lucky accident. Lyrically written, emotionally complicated, and surprising in many ways, it is hard to put down. It explores what constitutes success and fame and art. A single chance occurrence creates something out of nothing, and someone out of no one — but at an enormous expense. Rachel Lyon has given us much to think about.”

Diana Wagman,”The Unintended Moment: Rachel Lyon’s ‘Self-Portrait with Boy,'” Los Angeles Review of Books, March 11, 2018

 

First Excerpt

“I’ll tell you how it started. With a simple, tragic accident. The click of a shutter and a grown man’s beat-like howl. The silent rush of neighbors down our dark dirty stairs. The lights of a police car illuminating the brick wall behind our building. And a photograph.

“I never meant for any of it to happen.

“Or no. Part of me meant for it to happen. I was nothing but a kid then. Twenty-six, naive, and ambitious as hell. A skinny friendless woman in thick glasses with a mop of coarse black hair. There were so many people I had not yet become.

“An article that came our later, I have it somewhere, described me as ruthless. I didn’t know until years later what the writer meant. To me it was always about the work. Franke laughs at me because although my studio is in the garage, my art and its equipment insist on spilling into our living spaces. Our kitchen table is cluttered with photographs.Prints hang to dry in the bathroom. By ruthless he meant single-minded. And sure, I’m single-minded. After all, I have only one mind. Still, I understand now that some artists look out into the world and some look in. I a interested in the limits of, the prison of, the self. I am more hedgehog than fox, I am more turtle than hedgehog.”

 

Second Excerpt