The American Painter Emma Dial by Samantha Peale is a perfect example of a "slice of life" - the book truly has no definite beginning nor end of a person's life, yet we are able to enjoy a brief moment of it.
Emma Dial is a woman who has gone prematurely grey, adding to her "artsy" look as she lives and breathes art in New York City. She is the assistant to Michael Freiburg, a well known and well connected art dealer, and she spends her time painting pieces for people who have much money to spend with little concern. Yet, the more she lives out her artistic dreams for the sake of others, the more she becomes concerned about living out her life for herself, thus beginning an internal struggle that will forever impact her life.
While reading this novel, I was amazed to figure out that I did not care about Emma; she seemed like a character that would soon be naturally erased from my mind. She seemed to live out her days and nights in a mixture of doing drugs, painting, meeting up with friends, visiting old apartments, having sex with her boss and later Philip Cleary, her artistic idol, and smoking too many cigarettes. Yet, the more I read and wanted to forget her, the more I found that I could not. She stood in the middle of the circle while everything else revolved around her. She made decisions, whether she knew it or not, and I both loved and hated her for it. I could actually hear her voice - somewhat flat tinged with an eccentric air that smelled of too many cigarettes - speak to me as I turned the pages. She reminded me of a friend in whom I always knew would make it big as creative professional yet once I ran into her on the street, I would try to forget immediately. In short, a confusing relationship that I loved even more for no specific reason.
To date, I do not think Samantha Peale has written anything since Emma Dial yet I hope she does; The American Painter Emma Dial was a delight to read and a book that I know will remain in my mind for quite a long time. For the record, if you do read this book, play some jazz in the background. The music compliments the book quite nicely!