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Impossible Views of the World
Cover of Impossible Views of the World
Impossible Views of the World
by Lucy Ives
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A witty, urbane, and sometimes shocking debut novel, set in a hallowed New York museum, in which a co-worker's disappearance and a mysterious map change a life forever
Stella Krakus, a curator at Manhattan's renowned Central Museum of Art, is having the roughest week in approximately ever. Her soon-to-be ex-husband (the perfectly awful Whit Ghiscolmbe) is stalking her, a workplace romance with "a fascinating, hyper-rational narcissist" is in freefall, and a beloved colleague, Paul, has gone missing. Strange things are afoot: CeMArt's current exhibit is sponsored by a Belgian multinational that wants to take over the world's water supply, she unwittingly stars in a viral video that's making the rounds, and her mother—the imperious, impossibly glamorous Caro—wants to have lunch. It's almost more than she can overanalyze.

But the appearance of a mysterious map, depicting a 19th-century utopian settlement, sends Stella—a dogged expert in American graphics and fluidomanie (don't ask)—on an all-consuming research mission. As she teases out the links between a haunting poem, several unusual novels, a counterfeiting scheme, and one of the museum's colorful early benefactors, she discovers the unbearable secret that Paul's been keeping, and charts a course out of the chaos of her own life. Pulsing with neurotic humor and dagger-sharp prose, Impossible Views of the World is a dazzling debut novel about how to make it through your early thirties with your brain and heart intact.

From the Hardcover edition.
A witty, urbane, and sometimes shocking debut novel, set in a hallowed New York museum, in which a co-worker's disappearance and a mysterious map change a life forever
Stella Krakus, a curator at Manhattan's renowned Central Museum of Art, is having the roughest week in approximately ever. Her soon-to-be ex-husband (the perfectly awful Whit Ghiscolmbe) is stalking her, a workplace romance with "a fascinating, hyper-rational narcissist" is in freefall, and a beloved colleague, Paul, has gone missing. Strange things are afoot: CeMArt's current exhibit is sponsored by a Belgian multinational that wants to take over the world's water supply, she unwittingly stars in a viral video that's making the rounds, and her mother—the imperious, impossibly glamorous Caro—wants to have lunch. It's almost more than she can overanalyze.

But the appearance of a mysterious map, depicting a 19th-century utopian settlement, sends Stella—a dogged expert in American graphics and fluidomanie (don't ask)—on an all-consuming research mission. As she teases out the links between a haunting poem, several unusual novels, a counterfeiting scheme, and one of the museum's colorful early benefactors, she discovers the unbearable secret that Paul's been keeping, and charts a course out of the chaos of her own life. Pulsing with neurotic humor and dagger-sharp prose, Impossible Views of the World is a dazzling debut novel about how to make it through your early thirties with your brain and heart intact.

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Copyright © 2017 Lucy Ives.

    monday

    The day Paul Coral vanished, it snowed.

    It being week one of April, the sky supplied a slush of frozen gobs, pea-size hail.

    I make it sound worse than it was, but in fact it was shitty. Emergency signage diverted me from the ground-f loor staff entry up the museum's palatial front steps, for once not because of the perennial construction, but on account of a strike by security guards. It was a Monday, and this was the Central Museum's way of keeping costs down with whichever firm was temping. Limited permeability, etc. Probably unrelated, but no one had thought to put out any salt.

    The guards had a fierce and litigious union. Their strike was of the French variety and likely to meet with results. They had stayed point- edly home, but other dissenters were present. A couple of diehards swaddled in tarps still protested WANSEE's plans for the Nevada aqui- fer. At week five, their foam board was deteriorating, but the gist was the shame of privatizing a natural good. I hiked by with a nod.

    WANSEE was a Belgian corporation poised, if my Facebook feed was

    not entirely alarmist, to control a significant portion of the planet's ground­ water. WANSEE was also supplying CeMArt with vital special exhibitions funding, a fact that would probably have kept me up at night had I not long ago abandoned all hope of an oligarch-free cultural landscape. As matters stood, I was indifferent to sleep, though for more personal reasons.

    Above billowed a claret banner three stories high advertising the newest show bolstered by the Belgians' largesse, "Land of the Limner," with WANSEE'S sponsorship tagged in nice italics along the bottom. Stabilizing poles clanked like mad.

    I breached the neoclassical facade and had my totes searched. I wore my museum ID at my collar for optimum motility, re: hands, burdens. A scab shined her penlight into my eyes.

    I am not tall. In fact I am short, with highly regular features. I despise makeup, though I wear lipstick, and, to further frustrate my appearance, I smoke.

    The security worker switched her light off and waved me through. I stepped into the cavernous atrium, enjoying the familiar rush of silence that meets Monday's ears and, more particularly, a whiff of senescent freesia, as stems were methodically plucked from a moribund display by a man in a yellow smock.

    I would have just made my way to the department, but Marco Jensen, who worked the central desk, was already present, stocking pamphlets, from which labor he recused himself in order to wave me vividly over.

    I swerved obediently, arranging my face into a pattern of delight. Marco was like, "I want you to remain calm:'

    This was a signal. I did a discreet sweep of as much of the cathedral as possible. Marco appeared to do likewise, for that area which was be­ hind my head. I leaned in.

    Marco was vibrating in place, actually.

    "What?''

    Marco is at least eight years younger than me. He is from Malibu by way of Yale and is very easy to look at. "You know Paul?" Everyone in the museum knows Paul, but this was beside the point. "So, like, apparently"-Marco nudged the words out with care, in the process presenting me with multiple views of his meticulously razed chin-"he's missing."

    "What?"

    "Yup. Since late last week. Didn't show up for a certain meeting and isn't returning calls. Forget email."

    "That's bizarre."

    Marco smoothed back an errant slice of hair. "I take it you haven't heard from him?"

    "Hey," I was saying, "I have to run:' I paused. "I feel like we...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 12, 2017
    Ives’s smart and singular debut novel chronicles what turns out to be a big week in the life of Stella Kraus, a petite and observant map expert for a Manhattan museum resembling the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over the course of seven days, Stella works through the one-sided residual effects of an affair with an inscrutable colleague being groomed to run the museum. Stella also copes with her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s inappropriate appearances at her work and work functions, eventually taking the matter into her own hands, so to speak. And what about the disappearance of a male colleague? The illustrated map Stella discovers while snooping in his office quickly becomes an obsession as she attempts to determine its provenance by embarking on a sort of scavenger hunt. Ives maximizes her story’s humor with subtlety; a line here and there is enough to call attention to the absurdity of, for instance, the museum’s corporate benefactor’s attempt to secure the world’s water rights. She also isn’t afraid to make her heroine unlikable, which works in the novel’s favor. Ives’s prose and storytelling feel deliberately obtuse at times, requiring readers to slow down to fully immerse themselves in the narrative’s nuances, but the result is an odd and thoroughly satisfying novel.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 1, 2017
    An art historical mystery that will interest fans of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, with a narrator equal parts intellectual, ironic, and cool.In Ives' scintillating debut novel, an up-and-coming young New York museum curator named Stella Krakus must solve the mystery of a co-worker's disappearance, fend off her soon-to-be ex-husband, and retrieve her heart from an ill-conceived office dalliance. Stella, who is a 19th-century cartographic specialist, finds a photocopy of a meticulously detailed and illustrated old map titled "Elysia" folded up in her missing colleague's pencil drawer. Her largely scholarly detective work on the matter also entails a bit of breaking and entering and lunch with her glamorous, secretive art-dealer mother. Ives' writing derives much of its humor from a combination of high and low--arch formulations and mini-disquisitions studded with cussing, sex, and jokes about Reddit. Its delights include a description of Stella's Williamsburg neighbors--"proofreaders dressed as majorettes, anorexics in suspenders, rich women in artisanal clogs propping up sobbing toddlers"--and this account of love: "the feeling...of it being spring for the first time, the face of a tiny kitten who is speaking fluent Spanish and is also a genie who can grant your wish, of being truly implied as the person I really was when another person spoke my name. My heart was a piece of paper. It was a paper fan. It was a dove." Also delectable are an excoriating direct address to the cheaters of the world and a definition of charm in art that seems to have much wider applicability--it's "what happens when nothing works in a given painting. But what you get when nothing works is everything." Yes! A diversion and a pleasure, this novel leaves you feeling smarter and hipper than you were before.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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