John Pistelli

writer

PORTRAITS AND ASHES

Portraits and Ashes is my first novel. The manuscript is complete, and I am currently seeking either a literary agent or small-press publication. This page contains, for the curious or the interested, a summary and a .pdf of the complete first chapter.

Summary

Portraits and Ashes, set during the economic collapse of an unnamed rust belt city, tells the intertwined stories of three central characters. Julia Bonham is a young aspiring artist with no money and no direction, haunted by a strange family history. Mark Weis, her old boyfriend from high school, is a seemingly successful architect who finds himself unemployed with a baby on the way. And Alice Nicchio-Strand, the former mistress of Julia’s estranged father, is a well-known artist and museum curator disgraced when the last art exhibit she curated proved fatal to twenty-one people. As each of their apparently failed lives moves toward its crisis, the trio is drawn into the orbit of a strange new cult called the Its, a sect of wandering ascetics who seek to obliterate the individual by living in abject communion with each other—and which may be tied to Frank Jobe, the mysterious and dangerous avant-garde artist responsible for the murderous art installation that led to Alice’s downfall. Portraits and Ashes unforgettably portrays three people—Julia the baffled drifter, Mark the good citizen, and Alice the willful quester—desperate to lead meaningful lives as they confront the bizarre new institutions of a fraying America: an underground secret hospital for the poor, a deconsecrated church turned artists’ colony and pornographer’s film set, a library whose gallery is a haunt of suicides, and a death-cult that may or may not be a radical art experiment.

Chapter One. The Bridge 

14 comments on “PORTRAITS AND ASHES

  1. Pingback: James Wood, David Mitchell, and the Metaphysics and Morality of the Novel | John Pistelli

  2. mothermi6
    21 January 2015

    I have read the first five pages of your pdf. It is very good. Literary fiction. You will surely get a publisher.
    Evangeline

    • johnpistelli
      21 January 2015

      Thank you very much for your kind words, Evangeline, and thank you for reading as well!

  3. christawojo
    26 January 2015

    Interesting concept. I’m writing about artists, too. I will save this to read when I get a few minutes. Thanks!

    • johnpistelli
      26 January 2015

      Thank you very much for your interest! Please feel free to share any feedback you may have if you get a chance to read it.

  4. christawojo
    31 January 2015

    This is really good, John. Really good. I confess, I hated Julia at the start for her notion that painting may be obsolete, but she grew on me by the end of the chapter. I’m fascinated to learn more about the It people and the rest of the characters.

    Please, let me know when it’s published. I’m eager to read the rest!

    • johnpistelli
      31 January 2015

      Thank you so much, Christa–I’m glad you enjoyed it, and that you came around on Julia (based on my rejection letters, some people never do!). I will keep you posted on any publication news; if you ever want to read the rest before then, feel free to email me at johnppistelli at gmail.com and I will send you a pdf.

  5. Portraits and Ashes is beach reading only if, as Gene Frumkin has said, “The mind is a beach whereon seductions occur, life into life recursing” (Comma in the Ear: Poems, 1990).

    • johnpistelli
      2 February 2015

      Thank you very much, Craig!

      • Prof. Oddfellow
        26 October 2016

        A year and a half later, I often find myself thinking about Portraits and Ashes — a memorable phrase or an indelible image will pop into my head.

      • johnpistelli
        26 October 2016

        Thank you! I hope I will have another one for you to read shortly, if you want…

      • Prof. Oddfellow
        26 October 2016

        Yes, please!

      • johnpistelli
        27 October 2016

        Great, I’ll let you know…still a couple months to go, I think.

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