Art and The Mystery (April, 2004)
by Eliot Pattison
For me, every great piece of art, in its essence, is a mystery. Many have tried to explain why a particular masterpiece moves particular viewers but the riddle can never truly be solved since its answer depends on so many variables of culture and personal experience. This is why my latest entry in the Shan series, Beautiful Ghosts,
Long before I lifted pen to paper—yes, I still do first drafts without electronic assists—I knew this book would include theft of religious art as a major theme, but given my characters and context of the series I also wanted to develop nontraditional motives for the crimes. While I was weighing these motives I asked more than a few people what it is that creates value in art. Gallery owners were apt to speak about markets and disposable income. A collector in London told me that it was all about the way light plays with memory. An artist in Boston told me no art had value unless it made the soul gasp. All of these perspectives are reflected among the cast of Beautiful Ghosts. When Inspector Shan must solve the bizarre crimes that threaten the lives of his Tibetan friends he is painfully frustrated until he grasps that although the significance of a priceless Tibetan art collection may be spiritual to some, it is financial, political, and even psychological to others.
As in all my Shan books, Tibet itself takes on the dimensions of
a character. When I have the pleasure of speaking with my readers
I often start by explaining that, after twenty years of globetrotting,
I believe nowhere on the planet more poignantly reflects the collision
of the old versus new, ethnic identity versus the faceless global
economy, the spiritual life versus the material existence, than
Tibet. As in the prior books, these collisions also are very much
part of the plot, and the journeys Shan takes out of Tibet to try
to save his friends, and son, only underscores the many ways that
land contrasts with the rest of the world. That I have also been
able to strike a political nerve in Beijing seems to be attested
by the fact that my website has been blocked in China—I suspect
I am the only mystery writer to be so honored.
Copyright © 2004 by Eliot Pattison.
Posted with permission of the publisher.