SAINT SEBASTIAN’S ABYSS: A Novel | Mark Haber, Coffee House Press (2022), 160p.
If you need a satirical escape into a faux-teleological art debate, this novel is for you.
Thoroughly entertaining and creative in its recursive narration, Saint Sebastian’s Abyss takes the reader on a trans-Atlantic flight as two former colleagues move towards reconciliation as one lies on his deathbed in Berlin. An unnamed narrator tells the story in a captivating stream of consciousness.
The author creates a detailed lampooning of the world of art curation and criticism with an engaging caricature that romps through a fictional Dutch Renaissance painter’s life and works.
As a novella, it is tight and fast-paced, reminiscent of the style of Camus or early Hesse. It brings the reader to face questions: what is and is not art? What is the sum of one’s life’s work? What is belief, the abyss (annihilation), and the value of salvation? When do focal obsessions obscure the importance of breadth?
Someone with razor wit who can poke fun at art like this novel is clearly its patron. If you enjoy dark, nerdy, and satirical intellectual jest, grab this one - you can start and finish it at the beach.