I just opened a discussion thread in my “newest literary fiction” goodreads group, where I asked people, here at the 3/4 mark for 2019, to name the one best book they’ve read this year…
And that gives me a delightful excuse to say over here on my blog how much I loved Optic Nerve by María Gainza.
What a wonderful novel. From the first page, I was immediately and intensely endeared to the narrator of Optic Nerve. I would follow this narrator on any reading journey, wherever she would lead me, because the places she leads me, sentence by sentence and chapter by chapter, are unexpected, wonderful, startling, and humane.
The chapters hang together loosely. There is no plot to speak of. And yet the pieces and digressions come together again and again to become something whole and true.
The novel situates you in the mind of an insightful person, and makes you wiser as she herself becomes wiser. Her epiphanies come to her through the experience of viewing art, and thinking about art deeply. She lets her experience of art reverberate through her life experience.
So, of course I love this novel, because at its core it is championing the idea that contemplation of the arts can be life-changing, enriching, devastating, and above all, an essential part of what makes us human.
To have an entire novel make this case, at a time in the world where there is so much ugliness, and so much attention given to economic utility over aesthetic utility, is a gift.