Monday, March 16, 2009

When Sardonic Gets Sinister

When Sardonic Gets Sinister
By Tom Wachunas

My acquaintance with Michael Horvath is one of those six degrees removed kind of things. He grew up in Akron, went to Akron U and OSU (my alma mater in a different era), now lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York (where I too lived for 11 years in another era), and has been, for roughly 20 years, Director of Acquisitions at Ira Spanierman Gallery in Manhattan (where, in another era, my connection to midtown galleries was that of a pesky wanna-show). I’ve never met him, though we seem to have a mutual friend in Minnesota who told his wife about this blog, where I here offer my take on his debut as an author.

Taken as a whole, the two novellas that comprise his “Brighter Graphite” are of an allegorical piece. Each is a delightfully quirky, clever and engrossing journey into what could be a parallel universe apparently dominated by artists and their endeavors. I’m reminded of the classic Saturday Night Live routine of Father Guido Sarducci describing a parallel earth forever hidden behind our sun. The sole difference between these two earths is that on the hidden one, folks hold their corn cobs vertically while chomping. Horvath’s world is distinctly more varied, complicated, and even sinister, though in a darkly comedic way.

“Graphite” is a compelling, confessional story of a maddeningly meticulous writer driven to finding out why the world’s finest pencils have become defective, and who chances upon a morbid resolution to the crisis. Confessional and morbid, too, is “Brighter,” featuring one Jano Gambon. He’s a jaded, minor painter-turned-art dealer who finds himself caught up in, then taking advantage of, a murderous feud beween the Formalists and Romantics. Amid an eccentric hermit’s supervision of his startling design for ending the conflict, Gambon hatches his own equally startling plan to claim the fame that had always evaded him, though at the dearest imaginable cost to himself.

Horvath is a masterfully facile, witty wordsmith. Like the train that transports the determined “Graphite” writer through weird geographies, Horvath blazes his bizarre path with wonderful, rich descriptions of predominantly gray-to-dark cityscapes with language that is anything but drab. The book is a well-delivered, two-fisted poke at the pathology of obsession that often fuels artistic passion. On the one hand, it’s a confident and humorous exploration of ethics and esthetics. On the other, it’s a gleeful foray into the ill-natured idiocies of life itself. Either way, it’s a knockout.

“Brighter Graphite” by Michael Horvath, 2009/ paperback/ Tatra Press LLC, 292 Spook Rock Road, Suffern, NY 10901, Library of Congress Control Number: 2008937944
CONTACT: Emily Church, Tatra Press (845)357-4843


bg burke said...


A big fan of Horvath's: the stories and his art(photos of a few pieces can be viewed at, I greatly enjoyed reading your discerning review of "Brighter Graphite." I thought to add the following from my review posted on Amazon:

"Two powerful and mind-bending novellas from an heretofore undiscovered master of the genre. I was drawn into Michael Horvath's fantastical voyages through the underbelly of the art world from the first sentence of each. Methinks, only someone intimately knowledgeable of that world could present truths about the realm of artists, dealers, and collectors we often don't want to admit to ourselves in so darkly humorous a fashion." Both an exemplarily how-to example for would-be short story writers and gripping from the get-go for readers - highly recommended.

bg burke

Tom Wachunas said...

Well said, Barbara, very well said. And I thank you for linking up here. Between your Amazon review and a first look at your blogsite, I feel I'm in the company of kindred spirits. I've always been fascinated by the chemistry and otherwise ephemeral workings that make visual artists write well, or writers make engaging visual art. It's not the medium that makes the artist so much as what the artist chooses to best draw with. And as a mentor from my very distant past once put it to me, all drawing is simply configuration in space (that is, 2, 3, and 4-dimensional space).Looking at it this way greatly illuminates the process of creating.