Still Life

Paul Skenazy

When his wife Edie dies, Will Moran abandons all he used to be, and do, to paint still life canvases of rocks and driftwood on the walls of his house.

He’s never painted before, recognizes his paintings are awful, but returns each day to his struggles with light and shadow, color and object, boundary and perspective.

Lost in his new obsession, Will avoids friends, gives away his furniture, and wanders the streets of his small coastal town late into the night. He eavesdrops on neighbors, dips into garbage cans, and fills his home with rocks he collects from local beaches.

Through it all, he clings to his still lifes — each one more failed effort to represent the simplest elements of his world — rocks, wood, and grief. It is only when unwanted but redemptive encounters force Will out of his new habits that he is forced to confront the unassuming person he once was and the man he has become.

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About The Author

Paul Skenazy

Paul Skenazy

Paul Skenazy grew up in Chicago and studied at the University of Chicago and Stanford University. He taught literature and writing for thirty-five years at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His nonfiction works include a book on James M. Cain, a collection of essays on place in San Francisco literature, and a selection of interviews with Maxine Hong Kingston. He has published more than three hundred reviews of fiction and nonfiction for newspapers and magazines nationwide, and was twice nominated for the National Book Critics Circle award for reviewing. For a dozen years, he was a mystery review columnist for the Washington Post.

His short novel, Temper CA (2019), won the Miami University Press Novella Contest. He revised and edited La Mollie and the King of Tears (1996), a posthumous novel by Arturo Islas, and his autobiographical piece on Chicago and Saul Bellow was a “Notable” essay in The Best American Essays, 2015. His stories and essays have recently appeared in Catamaran Literary Reader, Chicago Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Santa Cruz, California with his wife, the poet Farnaz Fatemi.

3 reviews for Still Life

  1. Elizabeth McKenzie

    Still Life is a stunning novel about the power of art, the complexity of relationships, and the transfiguration of cast offs, all seen through the recomposition of a broken life. Skenazy writes with mysterious clarity and extraordinary compression; the novel shimmers with intelligence and grace.”

    Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen

  2. Thad Nodine

    Still Life offers a rare and beautiful story about the power of our own will to address the disconnects in our lives. After the loss of his wife, Will Moran steps out of family routines and social norms to paint rocks. It’s a novel of voyaging while staying in place, keeping house while refusing all chores, opening hearts while closing doors, and squeezing meaning from stones.”

    Thad Nodine, author of Touch and Go

  3. Henry Martin

    “Like a beguiling still life, Skenazy’s novel renders perspectives and relationships with nuance and depth. Hypnotic writing, surprising characters, and searching reflections on art and meaning pulse through a moving story about the visible and invisible sediments of longing and fidelity.”

    Henry Martin, author of Agnes Martin: Pioneer, Painter, Icon

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