- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Jun. 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1786490889
- ISBN-13: 978-1786490889
- Product Dimensions: 16 x 3 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 691,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Chalk Artist Hardcover – 1 Jun 2017
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A thriller and a page-turner... Brilliant - Lionel Shriver, Guardian; Wonderfully written and as compulsive as Grisham... A riveting novel - The Times -- Praise for INTUITION Goodman is everything it says on her tin - a wonderful, lyrical writer - but she also has an astute eye for comedy and some bits of the book are truly hilarious. - Daily Mail; The Cookbook Collector is wise, moving, and every bit as impressive as Freedom - Independent on Sunday -- Praise for THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR
Allegra Goodman, lauded by Lionel Shriver, shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize, and a New York Times bestselling novelist, tackles love, obsession and alternate realities in this gritty and thought-provoking novel.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
Collin, a recent drop out from college is tending bar in his hometown, Cambridge, Mass. He is attracted to a young woman, most probably a teacher, who comes in several times a week and grades papers. Nina, teaches poetry, Emerson and Shakespeare to high school students. They meet, she discovers the artistic side of Collin and he is offered a job with her father's firm developing new reality games. All good and fine, as we follow them, we meet Collin's mother, and the neighbors and friends who come to her parties. One such group, a mother and two children play an integral part in this novel. This is a novel of finding yourself and proving your worth. Developing your talents, particularly when someone provides some nurturing.
This is a novel of some simplicity, no overthinking required, but it has a thread that provides a base in reality. The reality games of today, so many young adults are caught up in these games and their days and nights are spent with reality figures. What does this do your persona? How do you connect with the real world?
Recommended. prisrob 06-01-17
It may not have been intended to be taken the way that I have but I see this as a great way to highlight how dangerous addiction can be and that it comes in many different forms. As video games or even as people. And how manipulating people can be. Fantastic read. Little hard to begin with when you don't really know where the story is going to go but you find yourself wanting to know what happens next.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
The book is about a teacher (Nina), her boyfriend (Collin, the chalk artist in the title, who goes to work for the teacher's father's video game company), and the two teens who get caught up in the world of the virtual reality video games created by the teacher's father. Of course, all four characters wind up entwined as a result.
I'm NOT a gamer, but I have to admit I got caught up in Goodman's vivid descriptions of the different games (definitely some Ready Player One comparisons will be made, although the action in this book mostly takes place in "real life", if you will.) So that aspect of the book was really amazing. If the book were more about that and less about the way the games affected each of the characters (Collin helps create the games, the teenagers live as by-products of the games, and Nina sees the way the games influence the kids...)
The main problem I had with this book is that I didn't really connect with any of the characters- I felt like the book casts a wide net, and there is a fairly large group of supporting characters who really don't add anything to the story, and some of that page real estate could have gone to developing the main characters. It was as if the main characters were all sort of an afterthought to how the whole video game plot might be serviced. None of the characters resonated with me, and even when surprises were revealed about the characters, I didn't feel like I was familiar enough with them to have much of a reaction. To me, the game was the main character of this book.
Like I said, it's compulsively readable, and it sucks you in right away. But with the character issues, I can't count it as one of my favorite Allegra Goodman books. It's good, but I wish some of the vivid descriptions of the games had been lavished on the characters.
The second story concerns Aiden, an intelligent but apathetic student of a single mother who works nights, and while she is gone, he spends those sleepless hours on his obsession—the virtual reality game that was created by Nina’s father and uncle. His twin sister, Diana, is his best friend, and covers for him while he ignores his studies, even allowing him to plagiarize her paper.
The aspect that impressed me was Goodman’s ability to create a visually stunning world of Arkadia—EverWhen and an underworld of Elves, flamethrowers, fantastical horses, and a topography that really pops. I am not a gamer, and was wary of a novel that focused on this industry. But that was not my problem; in fact, delving into this netherworld was, in my opinion, the most engaging part of the novel. Goodman’s arresting Arkadia was appealing and not technical. It was presented mostly via the theme of obsession, and weighted more with the art and illustration side to it.
The love story between Collin and Nina, however, was lukewarm and derivative. Rich girl gets poor boy job at daddy’s company, which seeds obvious conflicts. Love affair proceeds predictably, including the stumbles along the way. The theme of permanence vs. impermanence did offer some nuggets of insight, and helped to soften the other more obvious clichés.
Even the intentional probity to Nina’s teaching skills and passion, and Collins challenges at Arkadia, seemed derivative. Goodman traded originality for platitudes, and organic moral complexity for sentimentality. I think the appropriate audience would be a YA crossover. If you have read a limited repertoire of love stories, this may appeal. Moreover, the virtual reality angle is a topical trend in some literature. Despite the flaws, I was periodically absorbed. It took about 90 pages to commit to the narrative, and accept the boilerplate romance.
is struggling in her first year of teaching to share her love of literature with with her disinterested students and and is very discouraged.
Then more characters are introduced and I found it confusing. Also I just couldn't care about Aiden, boy who preferred to living in a virtual reality game rather than real life, and try as I might I couldn't finish the book. The writing is excellent and zips right along but to me the plot seemed to be going nowhere and about halfway through the good writing wasn't enough.
Collin is nothing if not appealing. At 23, he is preternaturally gifted but what most people would call an underachiever. An art school dropout, he works in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, bar and draws temporary chalk backdrops on blackboards for an outfit called Theater Without Walls, which performs weird versions of classic plays in public spaces.
Then he meets Nina, from a part of Cambridge much wealthier than his. She is bright and lovely but what most people would call an earnest rich kid. As a trainee with TeacherCorps, she is attempting to inspire her unruly teenage students at Emerson High School with American literature: Thoreau, Emerson, Dickinson. Mostly, she can’t even keep them quiet and seated.
Goodman adds a modern twist by making Nina the daughter of Viktor Lazare, founding genius of Arkadia, a video-game empire that has mesmerized millions of kids. Its products --- the sword-and-sorcery game EverWhen and its soon-to-be-released dark sister, UnderWorld --- are more seductive than poetry or theater, and far more lucrative. When Nina gets her father to audition Collin for a job, these different worlds meet, and clash. Where do virtual-reality games sit on the line between commerce and art? Are they harmless pastimes or, as one character claims, “weapons of mass destruction”?
Paralleling Nina and Collin are two characters who are the recipients (or victims?) of their efforts: the 16-year-old twins Aidan and Diana. Both, in turn, are Nina’s students, and Aidan is obsessed with --- literally addicted to --- the games Collin now labors to create. THE CHALK ARTIST is a sort of coming-of-age book times four. While the younger pair are awash in identity crisis, the older two are struggling to find themselves in work.
The book is at its best when it evokes this visceral sense of vocation. The scenes in which Collin is drawing are absolutely thrilling (“As mimics capture gestures in performance, he drew essential details, the curve of a neck, the soft dent in a pillow, the arc of a careening sled…. How did he do it? He seemed to steal from the world”). And Nina’s efforts to engage her students are filled with passion and self-doubt: “You had to get louder in this profession, not softer…. You were supposed to scream to show you cared…. Nina’s emotions were all wrong, if that was possible. She wasn’t angry when kids didn’t do the reading. She was crushed.”
Goodman is also wonderful at creating institutions, her descriptions stopping just this side of satire. Arkadia is fascinating, even scary, a self-contained hive ruled by Viktor and his sadistic, brilliant brother, Peter. Emerson High, where Nina teaches, is an ultra-progressive public school where students are required to keep Discovery Journals and hand in portfolios instead of taking exams. THE CHALK ARTIST is notable, too, for its affectionate portrait of Cambridge --- Collin’s version, at least --- with its block parties, organic foodfests, tree funerals and crafty, multiethnic vibe.
I have loved Goodman’s fiction ever since I read her early work: the story collection THE FAMILY MARKOWITZ (1996) and KAATERSKILL FALLS (1998), a National Book Award finalist. I also enjoyed THE COOKBOOK COLLECTOR (2006) and INTUITION (2010). But her more recent novels seem to me a bit tamer than before, and that’s true of THE CHALK ARTIST as well. There’s more drama and bite in the video games than in the main characters’ real lives.
When Nina and Collin aren’t actually working, their relationship seemed to me blandly magical, gorgeously written but also soft-focus and slow-motion, like those scenes in movies when love is new and the Oscar-nominated song plays. They romp in the snow, have graceful sex, and even when they fight, nothing very gnarly happens. There is some tension in wondering how far Aidan will go to feed his obsession, but, that apart, I found the younger generation slightly tedious, especially the (to me) unnecessarily elaborate adventures in EverWhen and UnderWorld. When Diana develops an attraction to girls, or rather to one girl, it feels trendy rather than organic; when, through Nina’s tutoring, Aidan becomes a convert to poetry (Ezra Pound, yet!), it seems too pat. Yet I did like the sparring between the two kids, their bond a real-feeling mix of rivalry and love.
There are no good guys or bad guys here (with the possible exception of Peter). And that is Goodman’s gift: her benevolence, her fondness for her settings and the people who inhabit them. THE CHALK ARTIST is intelligent, absorbing and inventive, with characters who inspire an ache, a sob, a smile. I could visualize them all --- as vividly as if Collin himself had drawn their portraits --- in the heat of their work, their art, their addiction, their rage and love.
Reviewed by Katherine B. Weissman.
Now, if you are a gamer you are going to love this book. But as a mom who already doesn't like video games this book is frightening. I see the allure of these games just by reading this book but I can see it take away life after life in this story and I am scared to death of anyone I love playing these games. BY the way the game they are testing doesn't exist but it would be so life-changing if it would. SInce i have a son who works in the virtual reality field I know one day something like this will exist and it scares me! And I am sure you see my problem -- my very much loved son could be creating something like this in the near future and I hate that thought! It terrifies me.
Anyway, this book will get to you. This book will eat up your time. This book is a lot like the computer game it revolves around. So watch it. Beware. Read it if you dare!!